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Love and Mr. Lewisham 













I Mi 34 IS 












Of Bladesover House, and my Mother : 
and the Constitution of Society 


Most people in this world seem to live "in character;" 
thev have a beginning, a middle and an end, and the 
three are congruous one with another and true to the 
rules of their tvpe. You can speak of them as being 
of this sort of people or that. Thev are, as theatrical 
people sav, no more (and no less) than " character 
actor-." They have a class, they have a place, they 
know what is becoming in them and what is due 
to them, and their proper size of tombstone tells at 
last how properlv they have played the part. But 
there is also another kind of life that is net so much 
living as a miscellaneous tasting of life. One gets hit 
bv some unusual transverse force, one is jerked out 
of one's stratum and lives crosswise for the rest of the 
time, and, as it were, in a succession of samples. That 
has been my lot, and that is what has set me at last 
writing something in the nature of a novel. I have 
got an unusual series of impressions that I want very 
urgentl v to tell. I have seen life at very different 

e 2 


levels, and at all these levels I have seen it with a sort 
of intimacy and in good faith. I have been a native 
in many social countries. I have been the unwelcome 
guest of a working baker, my cousin, who has since died 
in the Chatham infirmary; I have eaten illegal snacks 
— the unjustifiable gifts of footmen — in pantries, and 
been despised for my want of style (and subsequently 
married and divorced) by the daughter of a gasworks 
clerk ; and — to go to my other extreme — I was once 
— oh, glittering days! — an item in the house-party of 
-a countess. She was, I admit, a countess with a financial 
aspect, but still, you know, a countess. I've seen these 
people at various angles. At the dinner-table I've met 
not simply the titled but the great. On one occasion 
— it is my brightest memory — I upset my champagne 
over the trousers of the greatest statesman in the 
empire — Heaven forbid I should be so invidious as to 
name him ! — in the warmth of our mutual admiration. 

And once (though it is the most incidental thing 
in my life) I murdered a man. . . . 

Yes, I've seen a curious variety of people and ways 
of living altogether. Odd people they all are, great 
and small, very much alike at bottom and curiously 
different on their surfaces. I wish I had ranged just 
a little further both up and down, seeing I have ranged 
so far. Royalty must be worth knowing and very 
great fan. But my contacts with princes have been 
limited to quite public occasions, nor at the other end 
of the scale have I had what I should call an inside 
acquaintance with that dusty but attractive class of 
people who go about on the high-roads drunk but en 
famille (so redeeming the minor lapse), in the summer- 
time, with a perambulator, lavender to sell, sun-brown 
children, a smell, and ambiguous bundles that fire the 


imagination. Navvies, farm-labourers, sailormen and 
stokers, all such as sit in 1834 beer-houses, are beyond 
me also, and I suppose must remain so now for ever. 
My intercourse with the ducal rank too has been 
negligible ; I once went shooting with a duke, and in 
an outburst of what was no doubt snobbishness, did my 
best to get him in the legs. But that failed. 

I'm sorry I haven't done the whole lot, though. . . . 

You will ask by what merit I achieved this remark- 
able social range, this extensive cross-section of the 
British social organism. It was the Accident of Birth. 
It always is in England. Indeed, if I may make the 
remark so cosmic, everything is. But that is by the 
way. I was my uncle's nephew, and my uncle was no 
less a person than Edward Ponderevo, whose comet-like 
transit of the financial heavens happened — it is now 
ten years ago ! Do you remember the days of Ponde- 
revo, the great days, I mean, of Ponderevo ? Perhaps 
you had a trifle in some world-shaking enterprise ! 
Then you know him only too well. Astraddle on 
Tono-Bungay, he flashed athwart the empty heavens 
— like a comet — rather, like a stupendous rocket ! — and 
overawed investors spoke of his star. At his zenith he 
burst into a cloud of the most magnificent promotions. 
What a time that was ! The Napoleon of domestic 
conveniences ! . . . 

I was his nephew, his peculiar and intimate nephew. 
I was hanging on to his coat-tails all the way through. 
I made pills with him in the chemist's shop at Wimble- 
hurst before he began. I was, you might say, the stick 
of his rocket ; and after our tremendous soar, after he 
had played with millions, a golden rain in the sky, 
after my bird's-eye view of the modern world, I fell 
again, a little scarred and blistered perhaps, two and 


twenty years older, with my youth gone, my manhood 
eaten in upon, but greatly edified, into this Thames- 
side yard, into these white heats and hammerings, 
amidst the fine realities of steel — to think it all over 
in my leisure and jot down the notes and inconsecutive 
observations that make this book. It was more, you 
know, than a figurative soar. The zenith of that 
career was surely our flight across the channel in the 
Lord Roberts j3. . . . 

I warn you this book is going to be something 
of an agglomeration. I want to trace my social 
trajectory (and my uncle's) as the main line of my 
story, but as this is my first novel and almost certainly 
my last, I want to get in too all sorts of things that 
struck me, things that amused me and impressions I 
got — even although they don't minister directly to my 
narrative at all. I want to set out my own queer love 
experiences too, such as they are, for they troubled and 
distressed and swayed me hugely, and they still seem 
to me to contain all sorts of irrational and debatable 
elements that I shall be the clearer-headed for getting 
on paper. And possibly I may even flow into descrip- 
tions of people who are really no more than people 
seen in transit, just because it amuses me to recall 
what they said and did to us, and more particularly 
how they behaved in the brief but splendid glare of 
Tono-Bungay and its still more glaring offspring. It 
lit some of them up, I can assure you ! Indeed, 
I want to get in all sorts of things. My ideas of a 
novel all through are comprehensive rather than 
austere. . . . 

Tono-Bungay still figures on the hoardings, it stands 
in rows in every chemist's storeroom, it still assuages 
the coughs of age and brightens the elderly eye and 


loosens the elderly tongue ; but its social glory, its 
financial illumination, have faded from the world for 
ever. And I, sole scorched survivor from the blaze, sit 
writing of it here in an air that is never still for the 
clans; and thunder of machines, on a table littered with 
working drawings, and amid fragments of models and 
notes about velocities and air and water pressures and 
trajectories — of an altogether different sort from that 
of Tono-Bungay. 


I write that much and look at it, and wonder 
whether, after all, this is any fair statement of what 
I am attempting in this book. Fve given, I see, an 
impression that I want to make simply a hotch- 
potch of anecdotes and experiences with my uncle 
swimming in the middle as the largest lump of 
victual, ril own that here, with the pen already 
started, I realize what a fermenting mass of things 
learnt and emotions experienced and theories formed 
I've got to deal with, and how, in a sense, hopeless my 
book must be from the very outset. I suppose what 
Fin really trying to render is nothing more nor less 
than Life — as one man has found it. I want to tell — 
myself, and my impressions of the thing as a whole, to 
say things I have come to feel intensely of the laws, 
traditions, usages, and ideas we call society, and how 
we poor individuals get driven and lured and stranded 
among these windy, perplexing shoals and channels. 
Fve got, I suppose, to a time of life when things begin 
to take on shapes that have an air of reality, and 
become no longer material for dreaming, but interesting 


in themselves. Fve reached the criticizing, novel- 
writing age, and here I am writing mine — my one 
novel — without having any of the discipline to refrain 
and omit that I suppose the regular novel- writer 

I've read an average share of novels and made some 
starts before this beginning, and Fve found the re- 
straints and rules of the art (as I made them out) 
impossible for me. I like to write, I am keenly 
interested in writing, but it is not my technique. 
Tin an engineer with a patent or two and a set of 
ideas ; most of whatever artist there is in me has been 
ffiven to turbine machines and boat-building and the 
problem of flying, and do what I will I fail to see how 
I can be other than a lax, undisciplined story-teller. 
I must sprawl and flounder, comment and theorize, if 
I am to get the thing out I have in mind. And it 
isn't a constructed tale I have to tell but unmanage- 
able realities. My love-story — and if only I can keep 
up the spirit of truth-telling all through as stronglv 
as I have now, you shall have it all — falls into no 
sort of neat scheme of telling. It involves three 
separate feminine persons. It's all mixed up with the 
other things. . . . 

But I've said enough, I hope, to excuse myself for 
the method or want of method in what follows, and 
I think I had better tell without further delav of mv 
boyhood and my early impressions in the shadow of 
Bladesover House. 



There came a time when I realized that Bladesover 
House was not all it seemed, but when I was a little 
boy I took the place with the entirest faith as a com- 
plete authentic microcosm. I believed that the Blades- 
over system was a little working model — and not so 
very little either — of the whole world. 

Let me try and give you the effect of it, 
Bladesover lies up on the Kentish Downs, eight 
miles perhaps from Ashborough ; and its old pavilion, 
a little wooden parody of the temple of Vesta at Tiburj 
upon the hill crest behind the house, commands in 
theory at least a view of either sea, of the Channel 
southward and the Thames to the north-east. The 
park is the second largest in Kent, finely wooded with 
well placed beeches, many elms and some sweet chest- 
nuts, abounding in little valleys and hollows of bracken, 
with springs and a stream and three fine ponds and 
multitudes of fallow deer. The house was built in the 
eighteenth century, it is of pale red brick in the style 
of a French chateau, and save for one pass among the 
crests which opens to blue distances, to minute, remote, 
oast-set farm-houses and copses and wheatfields and 
the occasional gleam of water, its hundred and seventeen 
windows look on nothing but its own wide and hand- 
some territories. A semicircular screen of great beeches 
masks the church and village, which cluster picturesquely 
about the high-road along the skirts of the great park. 
Northward, at the remotest corner of that enclosure, is 
a second dependent village, Ropedean, less fortunate in 
its greater distance and also on account of a rector. 
This divine was indeed rich, but he was vindictively 
economical because of some shrinkage of his tithes ; and 


by reason of his use of the word Eucharist for the 
Lord's Supper he had become altogether estranged 
from the great ladies of Bladesover. So that Ropedeau 
was in the shadows through all that youthful time. 

Now, the unavoidable suggestion of that wide park 
and that fair large house, dominating church, village 
and the country-side, was that they represented the 
thing that mattered supremely in the world, and that 
all other things had significance only in relation to 
them. They represented the Gentry, the Quality, by 
and through and for whom the rest of the world, the 
farming folk and the labouring folk, the trades-people 
of Ashborough, and the upper servants and the lower 
servants and the servants of the estate, breathed and 
lived and were permitted. And the Quality did it so 
quietly and thoroughly, the great house mingled so 
solidly and effectually with earth and sky, the contrast 
of its spacious hall and saloon and galleries, its airy 
housekeeper's room and warren of offices with the 
meagre dignities of the vicar, and the pinched and 
stuffy rooms of even the post-office people and the 
grocer, so enforced these suggestions, that it was only 
when I was a boy of thirteen or fourteen and some 
queer inherited strain of scepticism had set me doubt- 
ing whether Mr. Bartlett, the vicar, did really know 
with certainty all about God, that as a further and 
deeper step in doubting I began to question the final 
lightness of the gentlefolks, their primary necessity in 
the scheme of things. But once that scepticism had 
awakened it took me fast and far. By fourteen I had 
achieved terrible blasphemies and sacrilege ; I had re- 
solved to marry a viscount's daughter, and I had 
blacked the left eye — I think it was the left — of her 
half-brother, in open and declared rebellion. 


But of that in its place. 

The great house, the church, the village, and the 
labourers and the servants in their stations and degrees, 
seemed to me, I say, to be a closed and complete social 
system. About us were other villages and great estates, 
and from house to house, interlacing, correlated, the 
Gentry, the fine Olympians, came and went. The 
country towns seemed mere collections of shops, market- 
ing places for the tenantry, centres for such education 
as they needed, as entirely dependent on the gentry as 
the village and scarcely less directly so. I thought 
this was the order of the whole world. I thought 
London was only a greater country town where the 
gentlefolk kept town-houses and did their greater 
shopping under the magnificent shadow of the greatest 
of all fine gentlewomen, the Queen. It seemed to be 
in the divine order. That all this fine appearance was 
already sapped, that there were forces at work that 
might presently carry all this elaborate social system in 
which my mother instructed me so carefully that I 
might understand my " place, 11 to Limbo, had scarcely 
dawned upon me even by the time that Tono-Bungay 
was fairly launched upon the world. 

There are many people in England to-day upon 
whom it has not yet dawned. There are times when I 
doubt whether any but a very inconsiderable minority 
of English people realize how extensively this ostensible 
order has even now passed away. The great houses 
stand in the parks still, the cottages cluster respectfully 
on their borders, touching their eaves with their 
creepers, the English country-side — you can range 
through Kent from Bladesover northward and see — 
persists obstinately in looking what it was. It is like 
an early day in a fine October. The hand of change 


rests on it all, unfelt, unseen ; resting for awhile, as it 
were half reluctantly, before it grips and ends the thing 
for ever. One frost and the whole face of thines will 
be bare, links snap, patience end, our fine foliage of 
pretences lie glowing in the mire. 

For that we have still to wait a little while. The new 
order may have gone far towards shaping itself, but just 
as in that sort of lantern show that used to be known 
in the village as the " Dissolving Views," the scene that 
is going remains upon the mind, traceable and evident, 
and the newer picture is yet enigmatical long after the 
lines that are to replace those former ones have grown 
bright and strong, so that the new England of our 
children's children is still a riddle to me. The ideas of 
democracy, of equality, and above all of promiscuous 
fraternity have certainly never really entered into the 
English mind. But what is coming into it? All this 
book, I hope, will bear a little on that. Our people 
never formulates; it keeps words for jests and ironies. 
In the meanwhile the old shapes, the old attitudes 
remain, subtly changed and changing still, sheltering 
strange tenants. Bladesover House is now let furnished 
to Sir Reuben Lichtenstein, and has been since old 
Lady Drew died ; it was my odd experience to visit 
there, in the house of which my mother had been 
housekeeper, when my uncle was at the climax of Tono- 
Bungay. It was curious to notice then the little 
differences that had come to things with this substitu- 
tion. To borrow an image from my mineraWical 
days, these Jews were not so much a new British gentry 
as " pseudomorphous " after the gentry. They are a. 
very clever people, the Jews, but not clever enough to 
suppress their cleverness. I wished I could have gone 
downstairs to savour the tone of the pantry. It would 


have been very different I know. Hawksnest, over 
beyond, I noted, had its pseudomorph too ; a newspaper 
proprietor of the type that hustles along with stolen 
ideas from one loud sink-or-swim enterprise to another, 
had bought the place outright ; Redgrave was in the 
hands of brewers. 

But the people in the villages, so far as I could 
detect, saw no difference in their world. Two little 
girls bobbed and an old labourer touched his hat 
convulsively as I walked through the village. He still 
thought he knew his place — and mine. I did not know 
him, but I would have liked dearly to have asked him 
if he remembered my mother, if either my uncle or old 
Lichtenstein had been man enough to stand being given 
away like that. 

In that English country-side of my boyhood every 
human being had a " place." It belonged to you from 
your birth like the colour of your eyes, it was inex- 
tricably your destiny. Above you were your betters, 
below you were your inferiors, and there were even an 
unstable questionable few, cases so disputable that you 
might, for the rough purposes of every day at least, 
regard them as your equals. Head and centre of our 
system was Lady Drew, her " leddyship,"" shrivelled, j 
garrulous, with a wonderful memory for genealogies 
and very, very old, and beside her and nearly as old, 
Miss Somerville, her cousin and companion. These two 
old souls lived like dried-up kernels in the great shell 
of Bladesover House, the shell that had once been gailv 
full of fops, of fine ladies in powder and patches and 
courtly gentlemen with swords ; and when there was no 
company they spent whole days in the corner parlour 
just over the housekeeper's room, between reading and 
slumber and caressing their two pet dogs. When I 


was a boy I used always to think of these two poor old 
creatures as superior beings living, like God, some- 
where through the ceiling. Occasionally they bumped 
about a bit and one even heard them overhead, which 
gave them a greater effect of reality without mitigating 
their vertical predominance. Sometimes too I saw 
them. Of course if I came upon them in the park or 
in the shrubbery (where I was a trespasser) I hid or 
fled in pious horror, but I was upon due occasion taken 
into the Presence by request. I remember her " leddy- 
ship 11 then as a thing of black silks and a golden chain, 
a quavering injunction to me to be a good boy, a very 
shrunken loose-skinned face and neck, and a ropy hand 
that trembled a halfcrown into mine. Miss Somerville 
hovered behind, a paler thing of broken lavender and 
white and black, with screwed up, sandy-lashed eyes. 
Her hair was yellow and her colour bright, and when 
we sat in the housekeepers room of a winters night 
warming our toes and sipping elder wine, her maid would 
tell us the simple secrets of that belated flush. . . 
After my fight with young Garvell I was of course 
banished, and I never saw those poor old painted 
goddesses again. 

Then there came and went on these floors over our 
respectful heads, the Company ; people I rarely saw, 
but whose tricks and manners were imitated and dis- 
cussed by their maids and valets in the housekeeper "s 
room and the steward's room — so that I had them 
through a medium at second hand. I gathered that 
none of the company were really Lady Drew's equals, 
they were greater and lesser — after the manner of all 
things in our world. Once I remember there was a 
Prince, with a real live gentleman in attendance, and 
that was a little above our customary levels and excited 


us all, and perhaps raised our expectations unduly. 
Afterwards, Rabbits, the butler, came into my mothers 
room downstairs, red with indignation and with tears 
in his eyes. "Look at that!" gasped Rabbits. My 
mother was speechless with horror. That was a sovereign, 
a mere sovereign, such as you might get from any 
commoner ! 

After Company, I remember, came anxious days, for 
the poor old women upstairs were left tired and cross 
and vindictive, and in a state of physical and emotional 
indigestion after their social efforts. . . . 

On the lowest fringe of these real Olympians hung 
the vicarage people, and next to them came those 
ambiguous beings who are neither quality nor subjects. 
The vicarage people certainly hold a place by them- 
selves in the typical English scheme ; nothing is more 
remarkable than the progress the Church has made — 
socially — in the last two hundred years. In the early 
eighteenth century the vicar was rather under than 
over the house-steward, and was deemed a fitting match 
for the housekeeper or any not too morally discredited 
discard. The eighteenth centurv literature is full of 
his complaints that he might not remain at table 
to share the pie. He rose above these indignities 
because of the abundance of younger sons. When I 
meet the large assumptions of the contemporary cleric, 
I am apt to think of these things. It is curious to 
note that to-day that down-trodden, organ-playing 
creature, the Church of England village Schoolmaster, 
holds much the same position as the seventeenth-century 
pa-rson. The doctor in Bladesover ranked below the 
vicar but above the " vet " ; artists and summer visitors 
squeezed in above or below this point according to their 
appearance and expenditure ; and then in a carefully 


arranged scale came the tenantry, the butler and house- 
keeper, the village shopkeeper, the head keeper, the 
cook, the publican, the second keeper, the blacksmith 
(whose status was complicated by his daughter keeping 
the post-office — and a fine hash she used to make of 
telegrams too !), the village shopkeeper's eldest son, the 
first footman, younger sons of the village shopkeeper, 
his first assistant, and so forth. . . . 

All these conceptions and applications of a universal 
precedence and much else I drank in at Bladesover, as 
I listened to the talk of valets, ladies'-maids, Rabbits 
the butler and my mother in the much cupboarded, 
white-painted, chintz-brightened housekeeper's room 
where the upper servants assembled, or of footmen and 
Rabbits and estate men of all sorts among the green 
baize and Windsor chairs of the pantry — where Rabbits, 
beino; above the law, sold beer without a licence or any 
compunction — or of housemaids and still-room maids in 
the bleak, matting-carpeted still-room, or of the cook 
and her kitchen maids and casual friends among the 
bright copper and hot glow of the kitchens. 

Of course their own ranks and places came by im- 
plication to these people, and it was with the ranks 
and places of the Olympians that the talk mainly con- 
cerned itself. There was an old peerage and a Crockford 
together with the books of recipes, the Whitaker's 
Almanack, the Old Moore's Almanack, and the 
eighteenth century dictionary, on the little dresser that 
broke the cupboards on one side of my mother's room ; 
there was another peerage, with the covers off, in the 
pantry ; there was a new peerage in the billiard-room, 
and I seem to remember another in the anomalous 
apartment that held the upper servants" bagatelle 
board, and in which, after the Hall dinner, they 


partook of the luxury of sweets. And if you had asked 
any of those upper servants how such and such a Prince 
of Battenberg was related to, let us say, Mr. Cunning- 
hame Graham or the Duke of Argyle, you would have 
been told upon the nail. As a boy, I heard a great 
deal of that sort of thing, and if to this day I am 
still a little vague about courtesy titles and the exact 
application of honorifies, it is, I can assure you, because I 
hardened my heart, and not from any lack of adequate 
opportunity of mastering these succulent particulars. 

Dominating all these memories is the figure of my 
mother — my mother who did not love me because I 
grew liker my father every day — and who knew with 
inflexible decision her place and the place of every one 
in the world — except the place that concealed my 
father — and in some details mine. Subtle points were 
put to her. I can see and hear her saying now, " No, 
Miss Fison, peers of England go in before peers of the 
United Kingdom, and he is merely a peer of the 
United Kingdom." She had much exercise in placing 
peopled servants about her tea-table, where the etiquette 
was very strict. I wonder sometimes if the etiquette 
of housekeepers" 1 rooms is as strict to-day, and what my 
mother would have made of a chauffeur. . . . 

On the whole I am glad that I saw so much as 
I did of Bladesover — if for no other reason than be- 
cause seeing it when I did, quite naively, believing in it 
thoroughly, and then coming to analyze it, has enabled 
me to understand much that would be absolutely 
incomprehensible in the structure of English society. 
Bladesover is, I am convinced, the clue to almost all 
that is distinctively British and perplexing to the 
foreign inquirer in England and the English-speaking 
peoples. Grasp firmly that England was all Bladesover 



two hundred years ago ; that it has had Reform Acts 
indeed, and such-like changes of formula, but no essen- 
tial revolution since then ; that all that is modern and 
different has come in as a thing intruded or as a gloss 
upon this predominant formula, either impertinently 
or apologetically; and you will perceive at once the 
reasonableness, the necessity, of that snobbishness which 
is the distinctive quality of English thought. Every- 
body who is not actually in the shadow of a Bladesover 
is as it were perpetually seeking after lost orientations. 
We have never broken with our tradition, never even 
symbolically hewed it to pieces, as the French did in 
quivering fact in the Terror. But all the organizing 
ideas have slackened, the old habitual bonds have re- 
laxed or altogether come undone. And America too, 
is, as it were, a detached, outlying part of that estate 
which has expanded in queer ways. George Washington, 
Esquire, was of the gentlefolk, and he came near being 
a King. It was Plutarch, you know, and nothing in- 
trinsically American, that prevented George Washing- 
ton bein£r a Kinsr. . . . 

§ 4 

I hated teatime in the housekeeper's room more 
than anything else at Bladesover. And more particu- 
larly I hated it when Mrs. Mackridge and Mrs. Booch 
and Mrs. Latude-Fernay were staying in the house. 
They were, all three of them, pensioned-off servants. 
Old friends of Lady Drew's had rewarded them posthu- 
mously for a prolonged devotion to their minor com- 
forts, and Mrs. Booch was also trustee for a favourite 
Skye terrier. Every year Lady Drew gave them an 


invitation — a reward and encouragement of virtue with 
especial reference to my mother and Miss Fison, the 
maid. They sat about in black and shiny and flouncey 
clothing adorned with gimp and beads, eating great 
quantities of cake, drinking much tea in a stately 
manner and reverberating remarks. 

I remember these women as immense. No doubt 
they were of negotiable size, but I was only a very little 
chap and they have assumed nightmare proportions in 
my mind. They loomed, they bulged, they impended. 
Mrs. Mackridge was large and dark ; there was a marvel 
about her head, inasmuch as she was bald. She wore a 
dignified cap, and in front of that upon her brow hair 
was painted. I have never seen the like since. She had 
been maid to the widow of Sir Roderick Blenderhasset 
Impey, some sort of governor or such-like portent in 
the East Indies, and from her remains — in Mrs. Mack- 
ridge — I judge Lady Impey was a very stupendous 
and crushing creature indeed. Lady Impey had been 
of the Juno type, haughty, unapproachable, given to 
irony and a caustic wit. Mrs. Mackridge had no wit, 
but she had acquired the caustic voice and gestures 
along with the old satins and trimmings of the great 
lady. When she told you it was a fine morning, she 
seemed also to be telling you you were a fool and a 
low fool to boot ; when she was spoken to, she had a 
way of acknowledging your poor tinkle of utterance 
with a voluminous, scornful " Haw ! n that made you 
want to burn her alive. She also had a way of saving 
" Indade ! " with a droop of the eyelids. 

Mrs. Booch was a smaller woman, brown haired, 
with queer little curls on either side of her face, large 
blue eyes, and a small set of stereotyped remarks that 
constituted her entire mental range. Mrs. Latude- 


Fernay has left, oddly enough, no memory at all except 
her name and the effect of a green-grey silk dress, all 
set with gold and blue buttons. I fancy she was a 
large blond. Then there was Miss Fison, the maid 
who served both Lady Drew and Miss Somerville, and 
at the end of the table opposite my mother, sat Rabbits 
the butler. Rabbits, for a butler, was an unassuming 
man, and at tea he was not as you know butlers, but in 
a morning coat and a black tie with blue spots. Still, 
he was large, with side whiskers, even if his clean- 
shaven mouth was weak and little. I sat among these 
people on a high, hard, early Georgian chair, trying to 
exist, like a feeble seedling amidst great rocks, and my 
mother sat with an eye upon me, resolute to suppress 
the slightest manifestation of vitality. It was hard on 
me, but perhaps it was also hard upon these rather 
over- fed, ageing, pretending people, that my youthful 
restlessness and rebellious unbelieving eyes should be 
thrust in among their dignities. 

Tea lasted for nearly three-quarters of an hour, 
and I sat it out perforce ; and day after day the talk 
was exactly the same. 

" Sugar, Mrs. Mackridge ?" my mother used to ask. 
" Sugar, Mrs. Latude-Fernay ? " 

The word " sugar " would stir the mind of Mrs. 
Mackridge. "They say, 11 she would begin, issuing 
her proclamation — at least half her sentences began 
"they say" — "sugar is fatt-an-ing, nowadays. Many 
of the best people do not take it now at all." 

" Not with their tea, ma'am, 11 said Rabbits, 

" Not with anaything,'' 1 said Mrs. Mackridge, with 
an air of crushing repartee, and drank. 

" What wont they say next ? " said Miss Fison. 


"They do say such things ! " said Mrs. Bcoch. 

" They say," said Mrs. Mackridge, inflexibly, " the 
doctors are not recomm-an-ding it now. 1 ' 

My Mother : " No, ma'am ? " 

Mrs. Mackridge : "No, ma'am.'" 

Then, to the table at large : " Poor Sir Roderick, 
before he died, consumed great quan-ta-ties of sugar. I 
have sometimes fancied it may have hastened his end." 

This ended the first skirmish. A certain sloom of 
manner and a pause was considered due to the sacred 
memory of Sir Roderick. 

" George," said my mother, " don't kick the chair ! " 

Then, perhaps, Mrs. Booch would produce a favourite 
piece from her repertoire. " The evenings are drawing 
out nicely, 1- ' she would say, or if the season was decadent, 
" How the evenings draw in ! " It was an invaluable 
remark to her ; I do not know how she would have got 
along without it. 

My mother, who sat with her back to the window, 
would always consider it due to Mrs. Booch to turn 
about and regard the evening in the act of elongation 
or contraction, whichever phase it might be. 

A brisk discussion of how long we were to the 
longest or shortest day would ensue, and die away at 
last exhausted. 

Mrs. Mackridge, perhaps, would reopen. She had 
many intelligent habits ; among others she read the 
paper — The Morning Post. The other ladies would at 
times tackle that sheet, but only to read the births, 
marriages, and deaths on the front page. It was, of 
course, the old Morning Post that cost threepence, not 
the brisk coruscating young thing of to-day. " They 
say," she would open, " that Lord Tweedums is to go 
to Canada." 


" Ah ! " said Mr. Rabbits ; " dew they ? " 

" Isn't he," said my mother, " the Earl of Slumgold's 
cousin ? " She knew he was ; it was an entirely irrelevant 
and unnecessary remark, but still, something to say. 

" The same, ma'am," said Mrs. Mackridge. "They 
say he was extremelay popular in New South Wales. 
They looked up to him greatlay. I knew him, ma'am, 
as a young man. A very nice pleasant young fella." 

Interlude of respect. 

" 'Is predecessor," said Rabbits, who had acquired 
from some clerical model a precise emphatic articulation 
without acquiring at the same time the aspirates that 
would have graced it, " got into trouble at Sydney." 

" Haw ! " said Mrs. Mackridge, scornfully, " so I 
am tawled." 

" 'E came to Templemorton after 'e came back, and 
I remember them talking 'im over after Vd gone 


" Haw ? " said Mrs. Mackridge, interrogatively. 

"'/« fuss was quotin' poetry, ma'am. 'E said — 
what was it 'e said ? — ' They lef their country for their 
country's good,' which in some way was took to remind 
them of their being originally convic's, though now 
reformed. Every one I 'eard speak, agreed it was 
takless of 'im." 

" Sir Roderick used to say," said Mrs. Mackridge, 
" that the First Thing "—here Mrs. Mackridge paused 
and looked dreadfully at me — " and the Second Thing" 
— here she fixed me again — " and the Third Thing " — 
now I was released — " needed in a colonial governor is 
Tact." She became aware of my doubts again, and 
added predominantly, " It has always struck me that 
that was a Singularly True Remark." 

I resolved that if ever I found this polypus of Tact 


growing up in my soul, I would tear it out by the 
roots, throw it forth and stamp on it. 

"They're queer people — colonials, 1 " 1 said Rabbits, 
" very queer. When I was at Templemorton I see 
something ov 'em. Queer fellows, some of 'em. Very 
respectful of course, free with their money in a 

spasammy sort of way, but Some of 'em, I must 

confess, make me nervous. They have an eye on you. 
They watch you — as you wait. They let themselves 
appear to be lookin' at you. . . ." 

My mother said nothing in that discussion. The 
word "colonies" always upset her. She was afraid, I 
think, that if she turned her mind in that direction 
my errant father might suddenly and shockingly be 
discovered, no doubt conspicuously bigamic and alto- 
gether offensive and revolutionary. She did not want 
to rediscover my father at all. 

It is curious that when I was a little listening boy I 
had such an idea of our colonies that I jeered in my heart 
at Mrs. Mackridge's colonial ascendancy. These brave 
emancipated sunburnt English of the open, I thought, 
suffer these aristocratic invaders as a quaint anachronism, 
but as for being gratified ! 

I don't jeer now. I'm not so sure. 


It is a little difficult to explain why I did not 
come to do what was the natural thing for anv one 
in my circumstances to do, and take my world for 
granted. A certain innate scepticism, I think, ex- 
plains it — and a certain inaptitude for sympathetic 


assimilation. My father, I believe, was a sceptic ; my 
mother was certainly a hard woman. 

I was an only child, and to this day I do not 
know whether my father is living or dead. He fled 
my mother's virtues before my distincter memories 
began. He left no traces in his flight, and she, in 
her indignation, destroyed every vestige that she could 
of him. Never a photograph nor a scrap of his 
handwriting have I seen ; and it was, I know, only 
the accepted code of virtue and discretion that pre- 
vented her destroying her marriage certificate and me, 
and so making a clean sweep of her matrimonial 
humiliation. I suppose I must inherit something of 
the moral stupidity that could enable her to make a 
holocaust of every little personal thing she had of 
him. There must have been presents made by him as 
a lover, for example — books with kindly inscriptions, 
letters perhaps, a flattened flower, a ring, or suchlike 
gage. She kept her wedding-ring of course, but all 
the others she destroyed. She never told me his 
christian name or indeed spoke a word to me of him, 
though at times I came near daring to ask her; and 
what I have of him — it isn't much — I sot from his 
brother, my hero, my Uncle Ponderevo. She wore her 
ring; her marriage certificate she kept in a sealed 
envelope in the very bottom of her largest trunk, and 
me she sustained at a private school among the Kentish 
hills. You must not think I was always at Bladesover 
— even in my holidays. If at the time these came 
round, Lady Drew was vexed by recent Company, or 
for any other reason wished to take it out of my 
mother, then she used to ignore the customary re- 
minder my mother gave her, and I " stayed on " at the 


But such occasions were rare, and I suppose that 
between ten and fourteen I averaged fifty days a year 
at Bladesover. 

Don't imagine I deny that was a fine thing for me. 
Bladesover, in absorbing the whole country-side, had 
not altogether missed greatness. The Bladesover 
system has at least done one good thing for England, 
it has abolished the peasant habit of mind. If many 
of us still live and breathe pantry and housekeeper's 
room, we are quit of the dream of living by economizing 
parasitically on hens and pigs. . . . About that park 
there were some elements of a liberal education ; there 
was a great space of greensward not given over to 
manure and food grubbing; there was mystery, there 
was matter for the imagination. It was still a park of 
deer. I saw something of the life of these dappled 
creatures, heard the belling of stags, came upon young- 
fawns among the bracken, found bones, skulls, and 
antlers in lonely places. There were corners that gave 
a gleam of meaning to the word forest, glimpses of 
unstudied natural splendour. There was a slope of 
bluebells in the broken sunlight under the newly green 
beeches in the west wood that is now precious sapphire 
in my memory ; it was the first time that I knowingly 
met Beauty. 

And in the house there were books. The rubbish 
old Lady Drew read I never saw ; stuff of the Maria 
Monk type, I have since gathered, had a fascination for 
her; but back in the past there had been a Drew of 
intellectual enterprise, Sir Cuthbert, the son of Sir 
Matthew who built the house; and thrust away, 
neglected and despised, in an old room upstairs, were 
books and treasures of his that my mother let me rout 
among during a spell of wintry wet. Sitting under a 


dormer window on a shelf above great stores of tea and 
spices, I became familiar with much of Hogarth in a 
big portfolio, with Raphael — there was a great book 
of engravings from the stanzas of Raphael in the 
Vatican — and with most of the capitals of Europe as 
they had looked about 1780, by means of several big 
iron-moulded books of views. There was also a broad 
eighteenth-century atlas with huge wandering maps 
that instructed me mightily. It had splendid adorn- 
ments about each map title ; Holland showed a fisher- 
man and his boat ; Russia a Cossack ; Japan, remarkable 
people attired in pagodas — I say it deliberately, 
"pagodas. 11 There were Terrae Incognitae in every 
continent then, Poland, Sarmatia, lands since lost ; and 
many a voyage I made with a blunted pin about that 
large, incorrect and dignified world. The books in that 
little old closet had been banished, I suppose, from the 
saloon during the Victorian revival of good taste and 
emasculated orthodoxy, but my mother had no suspicion 
of their character. So I read and understood the good 
sound rhetoric of Tom Paine's " Rights of Man,' 1 and 
his " Common Sense, 11 excellent books, once praised by 
bishops and since sedulously lied about. Gulliver was 
there unexpurgated, strong meat for a boy perhaps, 
but not too strong I hold — I have never regretted that 
I escaped niceness in these affairs. The satire of 
Traldragdubh made my blood boil as it was meant to 
do, but I hated Swift for the Houyhnhnms and never 
quite liked a horse afterwards. Then I remember also 
a translation of Voltaire's " Candide, 11 and " Rasselas ; 11 
and, vast book though it was, I really believe I read, in a 
muzzy sort of way of course, from end to end, and even 
with some reference now and then to the Atlas, Gibbon 
— in twelve volumes. 


These readings whetted my taste for more, and 
surreptitiously I raided the bookcases in the big saloon. 
I got through quite a number of books before my 
sacrilegious temerity was discovered by Ann, the old 
head-housemaid. I remember that among others I 
tried a translation of Plato's " Republic " then, and 
found extraordinarily little interest in it ; I was much 
too young for that; but " Vathek "— " Vatliek " was 
glorious stuff. That kicking affair ! When everybody 
had to kick ! 

The thought of " Vathek " always brings back with 
it my boyish memory of the big saloon at Bladesover. 

It was a huge long room with many windows open- 
ing upon the park, and each window — there were a 
dozen or more reaching from the floor up — had its 
elaborate silk or satin curtains, heavily fringed, a canopy 
(is it ?) above, its complex white shutters folding into 
the deep thickness of the wall. At either end of that 
great still place was an immense marble chimney-piece ; 
the end by the bookcase showed the wolf and Romulus 
and Remus, with Homer and Virgil for supporters; 
the design of the other end I have forgotten. Frederick, 
Prince of Wales, swaggered flatly over the one, twice 
life-size, but mellowed by the surface gleam of oil; 
and over the other was an equally colossal group 
of departed Drews as sylvan deities, scantily clad, 
against a storm-rent sky. Down the centre of the 
elaborate ceiling were three chandeliers, each bearing 
some hundreds of dangling glass lustres, and over the 
interminable carpet — it impressed me as about as big 
as Sarmatia in the store-room Atlas — were islands and 
archipelagoes of chintz-covered chairs and couches, 
tables, great Sevres vases on pedestals, a bronze man 
and horse. Somewhere in this wilderness one came, I 


remember, upon a big harp beside a lyre-shaped music- 
stand, and a grand piano. . . . 

The book-borrowing raid was one of extraordinary 
dash and danger. One came down the main service 
stairs — that was legal, and illegality began in a little 
landing when, very cautiously, one went through a red 
baize door. A little passage led to the hall, and here 
one reconnoitred for Ann, the old head-housemaid — 
the younger housemaids were friendly and did not 
count. Ann located, came a dash across the open space 
at the foot of that great staircase that has never been 
properly descended since powder went out of fashion, 
and so to the saloon door. A beast of an oscillating 
Chinaman in china, as large as life, grimaced and 
quivered to one's lightest steps. That door was the 
perilous place ; it was double, with the thickness of 
the wall between, so that one could not listen before- 
hand for the whisk of the feather-brush on the other 
side. Oddly rat-like, is it not, this darting into enor- 
mous places in pursuit of the abandoned crumbs of 
thought ? 

And I found Langhorne's "Plutarch" too, I re- 
member, on those shelves. It seems queer to me now to 
think that I acquired pride and self-respect, the idea of 
a state and the germ of public spirit, in such a furtive 
fashion ; queer, too, that it should rest with an old 
Greek, dead these eighteen hundred years, to teach me 


The school I went to was the sort of school the 
Bladesover system permitted. The public schools that 


had come into existence in the brief glow of the Re- 
nascence had been taken possession of by the ruling 
class ; the lower cksses were not supposed to stand in 
need of schools, and our middle stratum got the schools 
it deserved, private schools, schools any unqualified 
pretender was free to establish. Mine was kept by a 
man who had had the energy to get himself a College 
of Preceptors diploma, and considering how cheap his 
charges were, I will readily admit the place might have 
been worse. The building was a dingy yellow-brick 
residence outside the village, with the schoolroom as 
an outbuilding of lath and plaster. 

I do not remember that my school-days were un- 
happy — indeed, I recall a good lot of fine mixed fun 
in them — but I cannot without grave risk of misinter- 
pretation declare that we were at all nice and refined. 
We fought much, not sound formal fighting, but 
"scrapping" of a sincere and murderous kind, into 
which one might bring one's boots — it made us tough 
at any rate — and several of us were the sons of London 
publicans, who distinguished " scraps " where one meant 
to hurt from ordered pugilism, practising both arts, 
and having, moreover, precocious linguistic gifts. Our 
cricket-field was bald about the wickets, and we played 
without style and disputed with the umpire; and the 
teaching was chiefly in the hands of a lout of nineteen, 
who wore ready-made clothes and taught despicably. 
The head-master and proprietor taught us arithmetic, 
algebra, and Euclid, and to the older boys even trigo- 
nometry, himself; he had a strong mathematical bias, 
and I think now that by the standard of a British 
public school he did rather well by us. 

We had one inestimable privilege at that school, 
and that was spiritual neglect. We dealt with one 


another with the forcible simplicity of natural boys, we 
" cheeked," and " punched " and " clouted ; ™ we thought 
ourselves Red Indians and cowboys and such-like 
honourable things, and not young English gentlemen ; 
we never felt the strain of " Onward, Christian soldiers, 11 
nor were swayed by any premature piety in the cold 
oak pew of our Sunday devotions. All that was good. 
"We spent our rare pennies in the uncensored reading 
matter of the village dame's shop, on the Boys of Eng- 
land and honest penny dreadfuls — ripping stuff, stuff 
that anticipated Haggard and Stevenson, badly printed 
and queerly illustrated, and very very good for us. On 
our half-holidays we were allowed the unusual freedom 
of rambling in twos and threes wide and far about the 
land, talking experimentally, dreaming wildly. There 
was much in those walks ! To this day the landscape 
of the Kentish weald, with its low broad distances, its 
hop gardens and golden stretches of wheat, its oasts 
and square church towers, its background of downland 
and hangers, has for me a faint sense of adventure 
added to the pleasure of its beauty. We smoked on 
occasion, but nobody put us up to the proper "boyish" 
things to do ; we never "robbed an orchard " for example, 
though there were orchards all about us, we thought 
stealing was sinful ; we stole incidental apples and 
turnips and strawberries from the fields indeed, but in 
a criminal inglorious fashion, and afterwards we were 
ashamed. We had our days of adventure, but they 
were natural accidents, our own adventures. There 
was one hot day when several of us, walking out 
towards Maidstone, were incited by the devil to 
despise ginger beer, and we fuddled ourselves dread- 
fully with ale ; and a time when our young minds 
were infected to the pitch of buying pistols, by the 


legend of the Wild West. Young Roots from High- 
bury, came back with a revolver and cartridges, and 
we went off six strong to live a free wild life one 
holiday afternoon. We fired our first shot deep in 
the old flint mine at Chiselstead, and nearly burst 
our ear-drums ; then we fired in a primrose-studded 
wood by Pickthorn Green, and I gave a false alarm 
of " keeper,"" and we fled in disorder for a mile. 
After which Roots suddenly shot at a pheasant in the 
high-road by Chiselstead, and then young Barker told 
lies about the severity of the game laws and made 
Roots sore afraid, and we hid the pistol in a dry ditch 
outside the school field. A day or so after we got it 
again, and ignoring a certain fouling and rusting of 
the barrel, tried for a rabbit at three hundred yards. 
Young Roots blew a molehill at twenty paces into a 
dust cloud, burnt his fingers, and scorched his face; 
and the weapon having once displayed this strange 
disposition to flame upon the shooter, was not sub- 
sequently fired. 

One main source of excitement for us was "cheeking" 
people in vans and carts upon the Goudhurst road ; and 
getting myself into a monstrous white mess in the chalk 
pits beyond the village, and catching yellow jaundice 
as a sequel to bathing stark naked with three other 
Adamites, old Ewart leading that function, in the 
rivulet across Hickson's meadows, are among my 
memorabilia. Those free imaginative afternoons ! how 
much they were for us ! how much they did for us ! 
All streams came from the then undiscovered " sources 
of the Nile" in those days, all thickets were Indian 
jungles, and our best game, I say it with pride, I 
invented. I got it out of the Bladesover saloon. 
We found a wood where "Trespassing" was forbidden, 


and did the " Retreat of the Ten Thousand " through 
it from end to end, cutting our way bravely through 
a host of nettle beds that barred our path, and not 
forgetting to weep and kneel when at last we emerged 
within sijjht of the High Road Sea. So we have burst 
at times, weeping and rejoicing, upon startled wayfarers. 
Usually I took the part of that distinguished general 
Xenophen — and please note the quantity of the 6. I 
have all my classical names like that, — Socrates rhymes 
with Bates for me, and except when the bleak eye of 
some scholar warns me of his standards of judgment, I 
use those dear old mispronunciations still. The little 
splash into Latin made during my days as a chemist 
washed off nothing of the habit. Well, — if I met 
those great gentlemen of the past with their accents 
carelessly adjusted I did at least meet them alive, as 
an equal, and in a living tongue. Altogether my school 
might easily have been worse for me, and among other 
good things it gave me a friend who has lasted my 
life out. 

This was Ewart, who is now a monumental artist 
at Woking, after many vicissitudes. Dear chap, how 
he did stick out of his clothes, to be sure ! He 
was a long-limbed lout, ridiculously tall beside my 
more youthful compactness, and, except that there 
was no black moustache under his nose blob, he had 
the same round knobby face he has to-day, the same 
bright and active hazel brown eyes, the stare, the 
meditative moment, the insinuating reply. Surely no 
boy ever played the fool as Bob Ewart used to play it, 
no boy had a readier knack of mantling the world with 
wonder. Commonness vanished before Ewart, at his 
expository touch all things became memorable and rare. 
From him I first heard tell of love, but only after its 


barbs were already sticking in my heart. He was, I 
know now, the bastard of that great improvident artist, 
Rickmann Ewart ; he brought the light of a lax world 
that at least had not turned its back upon beauty, into 
the growing fermentation of my mind. 

I won his heart by a version of Vathek, and after 
that we were inseparable yarning friends. AVe merged 
our intellectual stock so completely that I wonder some- 
times how much I did not become Ewart, how much 
Ewart is not vicariously and derivatively me. . . . 

s < 

And then when I had newly passed my fourteenth 
birthday, came my tragic disgrace. 

It was in my midsummer holidays that the thing 
happened, and it was through the Honourable Beatrice 
Normandy. She had "come into my life, 11 as they say, 
before I was twelve. 

She descended unexpectedly into a peaceful inter- 
lude that followed the annual going of those Three 
Great Women. She came into the old nursery upstairs, 
and every day she had tea with us in the housekeeper's 
room. She was eight, and she came with a nurse called 
Nannie ; and to begin with, I did not like her at all. 

Nobody liked this irruption into the downstairs 
rooms ; the two " gave trouble, 11 — a dire offence ; 
Nannie's sense of duty to her charge led to requests 
and demands that took my mother's breath away. Eggs 
at unusual times, the reboiling of milk, the rejection of 
an excellent milk pudding — not negotiated respectfully, 
but dictated as of right. Nannie was a dark, long- 
featured, taciturn woman in a grey dress ; she had a 



furtive inflexibility of manner that finally dismayed and 
crushed and overcame. She conveyed she was " under 
orders 11 — like a Greek tragedy. She was that strange 
product of the old time, a devoted, trusted servant ; 
she had, as it were, banked all her pride and will with 
the greater, more powerful people who employed her, 
in return for a life-long security of servitude — the 
bargain was none the less binding for being implicit. 
Finally they were to pension her, and she would die the 
hated treasure of a boarding-house. She had built up 
in herself an enormous habit of reference to these up- 
stairs people, she had curbed down all discordant 
murmurings of her soul, her very instincts were per- 
verted or surrendered. She was sexless, her persona! 
pride was all transferred, she mothered another woman's 
child with a hard, joyless devotion that was at last 
entirely compatible with a stoical separation. She 
treated us'all as things that counted for nothing save 
to fetch and carry for her charge. But the Honourable 
Beatrice could condescend. 

The queer chances of later years come between me 
and a distinctly separated memory of that childish face. 
When I think of Beatrice, I think of her as I came to 
know her at a later time, when at last I came to know 
her so well that indeed now I could draw her, and show 
a hundred little delicate things you would miss in look- 
in £r at her. But even then I remember how I noted 
the infinite delicacy of her childish skin and the fine 
eyebrow, finer than the finest feather that ever one felt 
on the breast of a bird. She was one of those elfin, 
rather precocious little girls, quick coloured, with dark 
haii-, naturally curling dusky hair that was sometimes 
astray over her eyes, and eyes that were sometimes 
impishly dark, and sometimes a clear brown-yellow. 


And from the very outset, after a most cursory attention 
to Rabbits, she decided that the only really interesting 
thing at the tea-table was myself. 

The elders talked in their formal dull wav — telling; 
Nannie the trite old things about the park and the 
village that they told every one, and Beatrice watched 
me across the table with a pitiless little curiosity that 
made me uncomfortable. 

"Nannie, 1 "' she said, pointing, and Nannie left a 
question of my mother's disregarded to attend to her ; 
" is he a servant boy ? " 

"S-s-sV said Nannie. "He's Master Fonde- 

" Is he a servant boy ? 11 repeated Beatrice. 

" He's a schoolboy," said my mother. 

"Then may I talk to him, Nannie?" 

Nannie surveyed me with brutal inhumanity. " You 
mustn't talk too much," she said to her charge, and cut 
cake into fingers for her. "No," she added decisively, 
as Beatrice made to speak. 

Beatrice became malignant. Her eyes explored me 
with unjustifiable hostility. " He's got dirty hands," 
she said, stabbing at the forbidden fruit. " And there's 
a fray to his collar." 

Then she gave herself up to cake with an appearance 
of entire forgetfulness of me that filled me with hate 
and a passionate desire to compel her to admire me. . . . 
And the next day before tea, I did for the first time in 
my life, freely, without command or any compulsion, 
wash my hands. 

So our acquaintance began, and presently was 
deepened by a whim of hers. She had a cold and was 
kept indoors, and confronted Nannie suddenly with the 
alternative of being hopelessly naughty, which in her 


case involved a generous amount of screaming unsuit- 
able for the ears of an elderly, shaky, rich aunt, or 
having me up to the nursery to play with her all the 
afternoon. Nannie came downstairs and borrowed me 
in a careworn manner, and I was handed over to the 
little creature as if I was some large variety of kitten. 
I had never had anything to do with a little girl before, 
I thought she was more beautiful and wonderful and 
bright than anything else could possibly be in life, and 
she found me the gentlest of slaves — though at the 
same time, as I made evident, fairly strong. And 
Nannie was amazed to find the afternoon slip cheerfully 
and rapidly away. She praised my manners to Lady 
Drew and to my mother, who said she was glad to hear 
well of me, and after that I played with Beatrice several 
times. The toys she had remain in my memory still 
as great splendid things, gigantic to all my previous 
experience of toys, and we even went to the great doll's 
house on the nursery landing to play discreetly with 
that, the great doll's house that the Prince Regent had 
given Sir Harry Drew's first-born (who died at five), 
that was a not ineffectual model of Bladesover itself, 
and contained eighty-five dolls and had cost hundreds 
of pounds. I played under imperious direction with that 
toy of glory. 

I went back to school when that holiday was over, 
dreaming of beautiful things, and got Ewart to talk to 
me of love ; and I made a great story out of the doll's 
house, a story that, taken over into E wart's hands, 
speedily grew to an island doll's city all our own. 

One of the dolls, I privately decided, was like 

One other holiday there was when I saw something 
of her — oddly enough my memory of that second holiday 


in which she played a part is vague— and then came a 
gap of a year, and then my disgrace. 


Now I sit down to write my story and tell over 
again things in their order, I find for the first time how 
inconsecutive and irrational a thing the memory can 
be. One recalls acts and cannot recall motives ; one 
recalls quite vividly moments that stand out inexpli- 
cably — things adrift, joining on to nothing, leading 
nowhere. I think I must have seen Beatrice and her 
half-brother quite a number of times in my last holiday 
at Bladesover, but I really cannot recall more than a 
little of the quality of the circumstances. That great 
crisis of my boyhood stands out very vividly as an 
effect, as a sort of cardinal thing for me, but when I 
look for details — particularly details that led up to the 
crisis — I cannot find them in any developing order at 
all. This half-brother, Archie Garvell, was a new 
factor in the affair. I remember him clearly as a fair- 
haired, supercilious-looking, weedily-lank boy, much 
taller than I, but I should imagine very little heavier, 
and that we hated each other by a sort of instinct from 
the beginning ; and yet I cannot remember my first 
meeting with him at all. 

Looking back into these past things — it is like 
rummaging in a neglected attic that has experienced 
the attentions of some whimsical robber — I cannot even 
account for the presence of these children at Blades- 
over. They were, I know, among the innumerable 
cousins of Lady Drew, and according to the theories of 
downstairs, candidates for the ultimate possession of 



Bladesover. If they were, their candidature was un- 
successful. But that great place, with all its faded 
splendour, its fine furniture, its large traditions, was 
entirely at the old lady's disposition ; and I am inclined 
to think it is true that she used this fact to torment 
and dominate a number of eligible people. Lord 
Osprey was among the number of these, and she showed 
these hospitalities to his motherless child and step- 
child, partly, no doubt, because he was poor, but quite 
as much, I nowadays imagine, in the dim hope of find- 
ing some affectionate or imaginative outcome of contact 
with them. Nannie had dropped out of the world this 
second time, and Beatrice was in the charge of an ex- 
tremely amiable and ineffectual poor army-class young- 
woman whose name I never knew. They were, I think, 
two remarkably ill-managed and enterprising children. 
I seem to remember, too, that it was understood that I 
was not a fit companion for them, and that our meet- 
ings had to be as unostentatious as possible. It was 
Beatrice who insisted upon our meeting. 

I am certain I knew quite a lot about love at four- 
teen, and that I was quite as much in love with Beatrice 
then as any impassioned adult could be, and that 
Beatrice was, in her way, in love with me. It is part 
of the decent and useful pretences of our world that 
children of the age at which we were, think nothing, 
feel nothing, know nothing of love. It is wonderful 
what people the English are for keeping up pretences. 
But indeed I cannot avoid telling that Beatrice and I 
talked of love and kissed and embraced one another. 

I recall something of one talk under the overhano-- 
ing bushes of the shrubbery — I on the park side of the 
stone wall, and the lady of my worship a little inele- 
gantly astride thereon. Inelegantly do I say ? You 


should have seen the sweet imp as I remember her. 
Just her poise on the wall comes suddenly clear before 
me, and behind her the light various branches of the 
bushes of the shrubbery that my feet might not profane, 
and far away and high behind her, dim and stately, the 
cornice of the great facade of Bladesover rose against 
the dappled sky. Our talk must have been serious 
and business-like, for we were discussing mv social 

" I don't love Archie," she had said, apropos of 
nothing; and then in a whisper, leaning forward with 
the hair about her face, " I love you ! " 

But she had been a little pressing to have it clear 
that I was not and could not be a servant. 

" You'll never be a servant — ever ! " 

I swore that very readily, and it is a vow I have 
kept by nature. 

" What will you be ?" said she. 

I ran my mind hastily over the professions. 

' ; Will you be a soldier? 11 she asked. 

" And be bawled at by duffers ? No fear ! " said I. 
" Leave that to the plough-boys. 11 

" But an officer ? " 

" I don't know, 11 1 said, evading a shameful difficulty. 
" Td rather go into the navy." 

" Wouldn't you like to fight ? M 

"Td like to fight, 11 I said. " But a common soldier 
— it's no honour to have to be told to fight and to be 
looked down upon while you do it, and how could I be 
an officer ? " 

" Couldn't you be ? " she said, and looked at me 
doubtfully ; and the spaces of the social system opened 
between us. 

Then, as became a male of spirit, I took upon myself 



to brag and lie my way through this trouble. I said I 
was a poor man, and poor men went into the navy ; 
that I " knew " mathematics, which no army officer did ; 
and I claimed Nelson for an exemplar, and spoke very 
highly of my outlook upon blue water. " He loved 
Lady Hamilton," I said, "although she xcas a lady — 
and I will love you." 

We were somewhere near that when the egregious 
governess became audible, calling " Beeee-atrice ! Beeee- 
e-e-atrice ! " 

" Snifty beast ! " said my lady, and tried to get on 
with the conversation ; but that governess made things 

" Come here ! " said my lady suddenly, holding out 
a grubby hand ; and I went very close to her, and she 
put her little head down upon the wall until her black 
fog of hair tickled my cheek. 

" You are my humble, faithful lover?" she demanded 
in a whisper, her warm flushed face near touching 
mine, and her eves very dark and lustrous. 

"I am your humble, faithful lover," I whispered 

And she put her arm about my head and put out 
her lips, and we kissed, and boy though I was, I was all 
atremble. So we two kissed for the first time. 

" Beeee-e-e-k-tvice ! " — fearfully close. 

My lady had vanished, with one wild kick of her 
black-stockinged leg. A moment after, I heard her 
sustaining the reproaches of her governess, and explain- 
ing her failure to answer with an admirable lucidity 
and disingenuousness. 

I felt it was unnecessary for me to be seen just then, 
and I vanished guiltily round the corner into the West 
Wood, and so to love-dreams and single-handed play, 


wandering along one of those meandering bracken 
valleys that varied Bladesover park. And that day and 
for many days that kiss upon my lips was a seal, and 
by night the seed of dreams. 

Then I remember an expedition we made — she, I, 
and her half-brother — into those West Woods — they 
two were supposed to be playing in the shrubbery — and 
how we were Indians there, and made a wigwam out of 
a pile of beech logs, and how we stalked deer, crept 
near and watched rabbits feeding in a glade, and almost 
got a squirrel. It was play seasoned with plentiful 
disputing betwen me and young Garvell, for each firmly 
insisted upon the leading roles, and only my wider 
reading — I had read ten stories to his one — gave me 
the ascendency over him. Also I scored over him by 
knowing how to find the eagle in a bracken stem. And 
somehow — I don't remember what led to it at all — I 
and Beatrice, two hot and ruffled creatures, crept in 
among the tall bracken and hid from him. The great 
fronds rose above us, five feet or more, and as I had 
learnt how to wriggle through that undergrowth with 
the minimum of betrayal by tossing greenery above, I 
led the way. The ground under bracken is beautifully 
clear and faintly scented in warm weather ; the stems 
come up black and then green ; if you crawl flat, it 
is a tropical forest in miniature. I led the way and 
Beatrice crawled behind, and then as the green of the 
further glade opened before us, stopped. She crawled 
up to me, her hot little face came close to mine ; once 
more she looked and breathed close to me, and suddenly 
she flung her arm about my neck and dragged me to 
earth beside her, and kissed me and kissed me again. 
We kissed, we embraced and kissed again, all without 
a word ; we desisted, we stared and hesitated — then in 


a suddenly damped mood and a little perplexed at our- 
selves, crawled out, to be presently run down and caught 
in the tamest way by Archie. 

That comes back very clearly to me, and other 
vague memories — I know old Hall and his gun, out 
.shooting at jackdaws, came into our common expe- 
riences, but I don't remember how ; and then at last, 
abruptly, our fight in the Warren stands out. The 
Warren, like most places in England that have that 
name, was not particularly a warren, it was a long 
slope of thorns and beeches through which a path ran, 
and made an alternative route to the downhill carriage 
road between Bladesover and Ropedean. I don't know 
how we three got there, but I have an uncertain fancy 
it was connected with a visit paid by the governess to 
the Ropedean vicarage people. But suddenly Archie 
and I, in discussing a game, fell into a dispute for 
Beatrice. I had made him the fairest offer : I was to 
be a Spanish nobleman, she was to be my wife, and he 
was to be a tribe of Indians trying to carry her off. It 
seems to me a fairly attractive offer to a boy to be a 
whole tribe of Indians with a chance of such a booty. 
But Archie suddenly took offence. 

" No," he said ; " we can t have that ! " 

" Cant have what ? " 

" You can't be a gentleman, because you aren't. 
And you can't play Beatrice is your wife. It's — it's 

" But " I said, and looked at her. 

Some earlier grudge in the day's affair must have 
been in Archie's mind. " We let you play with us," 
said Archie ; " but we can't have things like that." 

" What rot ! " said Beatrice. " He can if he likes." 

But he carried his point. I let him carry it, and 


only began to grow angry three or four minutes later. 
Then we were still discussing play and disputing about 
another game. Nothing seemed right for all of us. 

" We don't want you to play with us at all," said 

" Yes, we do," said Beatrice. 

" He drops his aitches like anything/ 1 

" No, E doesn't," said I, in the heat of the moment. 

" There you go ! " he cried. " E, he says. E ! 
E ! E ! " 

He pointed a finger at me. He had struck to the 
heart of my shame. I made the only possible reply by 
a rush at him. " Hello ! " he cried, at my blackavised 
attack. He dropped back into an attitude that had 
some style in it, parried my blow, got back at my 
cheek, and laughed with surprise and relief at his own 
success. "Whereupon I became a thing of murderous 
rage. He could box as well or better than I — he had 
yet to realize I knew anything of that at all — but 
I had fought once or twice to a finish with bare fists, I 
was used to inflicting and enduring savage hurting, and 
I doubt if he had ever fought. I hadn't fought ten 
seconds before I felt this softness in him, realized all 
that quality of modern upper-class England that never 
goes to the quick, that hedges about rules and those 
petty points of honour that are the ultimate com- 
minution of honour, that claims credit for things 
demonstrably half done. He seemed to think that 
first hit of his and one or two others were going to 
matter, that I ought to give in when presently my lip 
bled and dripped blood upon my clothes. So before 
we had been at it a minute he had ceased to be 
aggressive except in momentary spurts, and I was 
knocking him about almost as I wanted to do, and 


demanding breathlessly and fiercely, after our school 
manner, whether he had had enough, not knowing that 
by his high code and his soft training it was equally 
impossible for him to either buck-up and beat me, or 
give in. 

I have a very distinct impression of Beatrice dancing 
about us during the affair in a state of unladylike 
appreciation, but I was too preoccupied to hear much 
of what she was saying. But she certainly backed us 
both, and I am inclined to think now — it may be the 
disillusionment of my ripened years — whichever she 
thought was winning. 

Then young Garvell, giving way before my slogging, 
stumbled and fell over a big flint, and I, still following 
the tradition of my class and school, promptly flung 
myself on him to finish him. We were busy with each 
other on the ground when we became aware of a 
dreadful interruption. 

" Shut up, you fool /" said Archie. 

" Oh, Lady Drew ! " I heard Beatrice cry. " They're 
fighting ! They're fighting something awful ! " 

I looked over my shoulder. Archie's wish to o-et 
up became irresistible, and my resolve to go on with 
him vanished altogether. 

I became aware of the two old ladies, presences of 
black and purple silk and fur and shining dark things : 
they had walked up through the Warren, while the 
horses took the hill easily, and so had come upon us. 
Beatrice had gone to them at once with an air of 
taking refuge, and stood beside and a little behind 
them. We both rose dejectedly. The two old ladies 
were evidently quite dreadfully shocked, and peerino- at 
us with their poor old eyes ; and never had I seen such 
a tremblement in Lady Drew's lorgnettes. 


" You've never been fighting ?" said Lady Drew. 
" You have been fighting." 

" It wasn't proper fighting,' 1 snapped Archie, with 
accusing eyes on me. 

" It's Mrs. Ponderevo's George ! " said Miss Somer- 
ville, so adding a conviction for ingratitude to my 
evident sacrilege. 

"How could he dare?" 1 cried Lady Drew, becoming 
very awful. 

"He broke the rules," said Archie, sobbing for 
breath. " I slipped, and — he hit me while I was down. 
He knelt on me. 11 

" How could you dare?" said Ladv Drew. 

I produced an experienced handkerchief rolled up 
into a tight ball, and wiped the blood from my chin, 
but I offered no explanation of my daring. Am one 
other things that prevented that, I was too short of 

" He didn't fight fair," sobbed Archie. . . . 

Beatrice, from behind the old ladies, regarded me 
intently and without hostility. I am inclined to think 
the modification of my face through the damage to my 
lip interested her. It became dimly apparent to my 
confused intelligence that I must not say these two 
had been playing with me. That would not be after 
the rules of their game. I resolved in this difficult 
situation upon a sulky silence, and to take whatever 
consequences might follow. 

§ 9 

The powers of justice in Bladesover made an 
extraordinary mess of my case. 


I have regretfully to admit that the Honourable 
Beatrice Normandy did, at the age of ten, betray me, 
abandon me, and lie most abominably about me. She 
was, as a matter of fact, panic-stricken about me, con- 
science-stricken too ; she bolted from the very thought 
of my being her affianced lover and so forth, from the 
faintest memory of kissing ; she was indeed altogether 
disgraceful and human in her betrayal. She and her 
half-brother lied in perfect concord, and I was presented 
as a wanton assailant of my social betters. They were 
waiting about in the Warren, when I came up and 
spoke to them, etc. 

On the whole, I now perceive Lady Drew's decisions 
were, in the light of the evidence, reasonable and 

They were conveyed to me by my mother, who was, 
I really believe, even more shocked by the grossness of 
my social insubordination than Lady Drew. She 
dilated on her ladyship's kindnesses to me, on the 
effrontery and wickedness of my procedure, and so 
came at last to the terms of my penance. " You must 
go up to young Mr. Garvell, and beg his pardon. 1 '' 

" 1 won't beg his pardon,' 1 I said, speaking for the 
first time. 

My mother paused, incredulous. 

I folded my arms on her table-cloth, and delivered 
my wicked little ultimatum. " I won't beg his pardon 
nohow," I said. "See?" 

" Then you will have to go off to your uncle Frapp 
at Chatham. 11 

" I don't care where I have to go or what I have 
to do, I won't beg his pardon, 11 I said. 

And I didn't. 

After that I was one against the world. Perhap 



in my mother's heart there lurked some pity for me, 
but she did not show it. She took the side of the 
young gentleman ; she tried hard, she tried very hard, 
to make me say I was sorry I had struck him. Sorry ! 

I couldn't explain. 

So I went into exile in the dog-cart to Redwood 
station, with Jukes the coachman, coldly silent, driving 
me, and all my personal belongings in a small American- 
cloth portmanteau behind. 

I felt I had much to embitter me ; the game had 
not the beginnings of fairness by any standards I knew. 
. . . But the thing that embittered me most was that 
the Honourable Beatrice Normandy should have re- 
pudiated and fled from me as though I was some sort 
of leper, and not even have taken a chance or so, to 
give me a good-bye. She might have done that any- 
how ! Supposing I had told on her ! But the son of 
a servant counts as a servant. She had forgotten and 
now remembered. . . . 

I solaced myself with some extraordinary dream of 
coming back to Bladesover, stern, powerful, after the 
fashion of Coriolanus. I do not recall the details, but 
I have no doubt I displayed great magnanimitv. . . . 

Well, anyhow I never said I was sorry for pounding- 
young Garvell, and I am not sorry to this day. 


Of my Launch into the World and the 
last i saw of bladesover 


When I was thus banished from Bladesover House, as 
it was then thought for good and all, I was sent by my 
mother in a vindictive spirit, first to her cousin Nicode- 
mus Frapp, and then, as a fully indentured apprentice, 
to my uncle Ponderevo. 

I ran away from the care of my cousin Nicodemus 
back to Bladesover House. 

My cousin Nicodemus Frapp was a baker in a back 
street — a slum rather — just off that miserable narrow 
mean high-road that threads those exquisite beads, 
Rochester and Chatham. He was, I must admit, a 
shock to me, much dominated by a young, plump, 
prolific, malingering wife ; a bent, slow-moving, un- 
willing dark man, with flour in his hair and eyelashes, 
in the lines of his face and the seams of his coat. Fve 
never had a chance to correct my early impression of 
him, and he still remains an almost dreadful memory, 
a sort of caricature of incompetent simplicity. As I 
remember him, indeed, he presented the servile tradi- 
tion perfected. He had no pride in his person, fine 
clothes and dressing up wasn't "for the likes of" him, 



so that he got his wife, who was no artist at it, to 
cut his black hair at irregular intervals, and let his 
nails become disagreeable to the fastidious eye ; he 
had no pride in his business nor any initiative, his 
only virtues were not doing certain things and hard 
work. " Your uncle," said my mother — all grown-up 
cousins were uncles by courtesy among the Victorian 
middle class — " isn't much to look at or talk to, but 
he's a Good Hard-Working Man."" There was a sort 
of base honourableness about toil, however needless, 
in that system of inversion. Another point of honour 
was to rise at or before dawn, and then laboriously 
muddle about. It was very distinctly impressed on my 
mind that the Good Hard- Working Man would have 
thought it " fal-lallish " to own a pocket-handkerchief. 
Poor old Frapp — dirty and crushed by - product of 
Bladesovers magnificence ! He made no fight against 
the world at all, he was floundering in small debts 
that were not so small but that finally they over- 
whelmed him, whenever there was occasion for any 
exertion his wife fell back upon pains and her "condi- 
tion, 1 ' and God sent them many children, most of whom 
died, and so, by their coming and going, gave a double 
exercise in the virtues of submission. 

Resignation to God's will was the common device 
of these people in the face of every duty and every 
emergency. There were no books in the house, I doubt 
if either of them had retained the capacity for reading 
consecutively for more than a minute or so, and it was 
with amazement that day after day, over and above 
stale bread, one beheld food and again more food amidst 
the litter that held permanent session on the living- 
room table. 

One might have doubted if either of them felt 



discomfort in this dusty darkness of existence, if it 
was not that they did visibly seek consolation. They 
sought this and found it of a Sunday, not in strong 
drink and raving, but in imaginary draughts of blood. 
They met with twenty or thirty other darkened and 
unclean people, all dressed in dingy colours that would 
not show the dirt, in a little brick-built chapel equipped 
with a spavined roarer of a harmonium, and there 
solaced their minds on the thought that all that was 
fair and free in life, all that struggled, all that planned 
and made, all pride and beauty and honour, all fine and 
enjoyable things, were irrevocably damned to everlasting 
torments. They were the self-appointed confidants of 
God's mockery of His own creation. So at any rate they 
stick in my mind. Vague?, and yet hardly less agree- 
able than this cosmic jest, this coming "Yah, clever I" 
and general serving out and "showing up" of the 
lucky, the bold, and the cheerful, was their own pre- 
destination to Glory. 

*' There is a Fountain, filled with Blood 
Drawn from Emmanuel's Veins," 

so they sang. I hear the drone and wheeze of that 
hymn now. I hated them with the bitter uncharitable 
condemnation of boyhood, and a twinge of that hate 
comes back to me. As I write the words, the sounds and 
then the scene return, these obscure, undignified people, 
a fat woman with asthma, an old Welsh milk-seller 
with a tumour on his bald head, who was the intel- 
lectual leader of the sect, a huge-voiced haberdasher 
with a big black beard, a white-faced, extraordinarily 
pregnant woman, his wife, a spectacled rate collector 
with a bent back. ... I hear the talk about souls, 
the strange battered old phrases that were coined 


ages ago in the seaports of the sun-dry Levant, of 
balm of Gilead and manna in the desert, of gourds 
that give shade and water in a thirsty land ; I recall 
again the way in which at the conclusion of the service 
the talk remained pious in form but became medical in 
substance, and how the women got together for obstetric 
whisperings. I, as a boy, did not matter, and might 
overhear. . , . 

If Bladesover is my key for the explanation of 
England, I think my invincible persuasion that I 
understand Russia was engendered by the circle of 
Uncle Frapp. 

I slept in a dingy-sheeted bed with the two elder 
survivors of Frapp fecundity, and spent my week days 
in helping in the laborious disorder of the shop and 
bakehouse, in incidental deliveries of bread and so forth, 
and in parrying the probings of my uncle into my rela- 
tions with the Blood, and his confidential explanations 
that ten shillings a week — which was what my mother 
paid him — was not enough to cover my accommodation. 
He was very anxious to keep that, but also he wanted 
more. There were neither books nor any seat nor 
corner in that house where reading was possible, no 
newspaper ever brought the clash of worldly things into 
its heavenward seclusion, horror of it all grew in me 
daily, and whenever I could I escaped into the streets 
and tramped about Chatham. The news shops appealed 
to me particularly. One saw there smudgy illustrated 
sheets, the Police News in particular, in which vilely 
drawn pictures brought home to the dullest intelligence 
an interminable succession of squalid crimes, women 
murdered and put into boxes, buried under floors, old 
men bludgeoned at midnight by robbers, people thrust 
suddenly out of trains, happy lovers shot, vitrioled and 


so forth by rivals. I got my first glimpse of the life of 
pleasure in foully drawn pictures of "police raids " on 
this and that. Interspersed with these sheets were 
others in which Sloper, the urban John Bull, had his 
fling with gin bottle and obese umbrella, or the kindly, 
empty faces of the Royal Family appeared and re- 
appeared, visiting this, opening that, getting married, 
getting offspring, lying in state, doing everything but 
anything, a wonderful, good-meaning, impenetrable race 
apart. . . . 

I have never revisited Chatham ; the impression it 
has left on my mind is one of squalid compression, 
unlit by any gleam of a maturer charity. All 
its effects arranged themselves as antithetical to the 
Bladesover effects. They confirmed and intensified all 
that Bladesover suggested. Bladesover declared itself 
to be the land, to be essentially England; I have 
already told how its airy spaciousness, its wide dignity, 
seemed to thrust village, church, and vicarage into 
corners, into a secondary and conditional significance. 
Here one gathered the corollary of that. Since the 
whole wide country of Kent was made up of contiguous 
Bladesovers and for the gentlefolk, the surplus of 
population, all who were not good tenants nor good 
labourers, Church of England, submissive and respectful, 
were necessarily thrust together, jostled out of sight, to 
fester as they might in this place that had the colours 
and even the smells of a well-packed dustbin. They 
should be grateful even for that ; that, one felt, was the 
theory of it all. 

And I loafed about this wilderness of crowded dingi- 
ness, with young, receptive, wide-open eyes, and through 
the blessing (or curse) of some fairy godmother of mine, 
asking and asking again : " But after all, why — ? " 


I wandered up through Rochester once, and had a 
glimpse of the Stour valley above the town, all horrible 
with cement works and foully smoking chimneys and 
rows of workmen's cottages, minute, ugly, uncomfortable, 
and grimy. So I had my first intimation of how indus- 
trialism must live in a landlord's land. I spent some 
hours, too, in the streets that give upon the river, 
drawn by the spell of the sea. But I saw barges and 
ships stripped of magic and mostly devoted to cement, 
ice, timber, and coal. The sailors looked to me gross 
and slovenly men, and the shipping struck me as clumsy, 
ugly, old, and dirty. I discovered that most sails don't 
fit the ships that hoist them, and that there may be as 
pitiful and squalid a display of poverty with a vessel as 
with a man. When I saw colliers unloading, watched 
the workers in the hold filling up silly little sacks and 
the succession of blackened, half-naked men that ran 
to and fro with these along a plank over a thirty-foot 
drop into filth and mud, I was first seized with admira- 
tion of their courage and toughness and then, " But 
after all, why — ?" and the stupid ugliness of all this 
waste of muscle and endurance came home to me. 
Among other things it obviously wasted and deterio- 
rated the coal. . . . And I had imagined great things 
of the sea ! . . . 

Well, anyhow, for a time that vocation was stilled. 

But such impressions came into my leisure, and of 
that I had no excess. Most of my time was spent 
doing things for Uncle Frapp, and my evenings and 
nights perforce in the company of the two eldest of my 
cousins. One was errand boy at an oil shop and 
fervently pious, and of him I saw nothing until the 
evening except at meals ; the other was enjoying the 
midsummer holidays without any great elation, a 


singularly thin and abject, stunted creature he was, 
whose chief liveliness was to pretend to be a monkey, and 
who I am now convinced had some secret disease that 
drained his vitality away. If I met him now I should 
think him a pitiful little creature and be extremely 
sorry for him. Then I felt only a wondering aversion. 
He sniffed horribly, he was tired out by a couple of 
miles of loafing, he never started any conversation, and 
he seemed to prefer his own company to mine. His 
mother, poor woman, said he was the "thoughtful 


Serious trouble came suddenly out of a conversation 
we held in bed one night. Some particularly pious 
phrase of my elder cousin's irritated me extremely, 
and I avowed outright my entire disbelief in the 
whole scheme of revealed religion. I had never said a 
word about my doubts to any one before, except to 
Ewart, who had first evolved them. I had never 
.settled my doubts until at this moment when I spoke. 
But it came to me then that the whole scheme of 
salvation of the Frapps was not simply doubtful but 
impossible. I fired this discovery out into the darkness 
with the greatest promptitude. 

My abrupt denials certainly scared my cousins 

At first they could not understand what I was say- 
ing, and when they did I fully believe they expected 
an instant answer in thunderbolts and flames. They 
gave me more room in the bed forthwith, and then 
the elder sat up and expressed his sense of my awful- 
ness. I was already a little frightened at my temerity, 
but when he asked me categorically to unsay what 
I had said, what could I do but confirm my re- 
pudiation ? 


" There's no hell," I said, " and no eternal punish- 
ment. No God would be such a fool as that.'" 

My elder cousin cried aloud in horror, and the 
younger lay scared, but listening. 

" Then you mean, 11 said my eldest cousin, when at 
last he could bring himself to argue," you might do just 
as you liked ? " 

" If you were cad enough," said I. 

Our little voices went on interminably, and at one 
stage my cousin got out of bed and made his brother 
do likewise, and knelt in the night dimness and prayed 
at me. That I found trying, but I held out valiantly. 
" Forgive him," said my cousin, " he knows not what 
he sayeth." 

" You can pray if you like," I said, " but if you're 
going to cheek me in your prayers I draw the line." 

The last I remember of that great discussion was my 
cousin deploring the fact that he " should ever sleep in 
the same bed with an Infidel ! " 

The next day he astonished me by telling the whole 
business to his father. This was quite outside all my 
codes. Uncle Nicodemus sprang it upon me at the 
midday meal. 

" You been say in 1 queer things, George," he said 
abruptly. " You better mind what you're saying." 

" What did he say, father ? " said Mrs. Frapp. 

" Things I could n 1 repeat," said he. 

" What things ? " I asked hotly. 

" Ask 'iw," said my uncle, pointing with his knife to 
his informant, and making me realize the nature of my 

offence. My aunt looked at the witness. " Not ? " 

she framed a question. 

" Wuss," said my uncle. " Blarsphemy." 

My aunt couldn't touch another mouthful. I was 


already a little troubled in my conscience by my daring, 
and now I began to feel the black enormity of the 
course upon which I had embarked. 

" I was only talking sense," I said. 

I had a still more dreadful moment when presently 
I met my cousin in the brick alley behind the yard, that 
led back to his grocers shop. 

" You sneak ! " I said, and smacked his face hard 
forthwith. " Now then," said I. 

He started back, astonished and alarmed. His eyes 
met mine, and I saw a sudden gleam of resolution. He 
turned his other cheek to me. 

" 'It it," he said ; " 'it it. Ill forgive you." 

I felt I had never encountered a more detestable 
way of evading a licking. I shoved him against the 
Avail and left him there, forgiving me, and went back 
into the house. 

" You better not speak to your cousins, George," 
said my aunt, " till you're in a better state of mind." 

I became an outcast forthwith. At supper that 
night a gloomy silence was broken by my cousin saying, 
" 'E 'it me for telling you, and I turned the other cheek, 


" 'E's got the evil one be'ind 'im now, a ridin' on 'is 
back," said my aunt, to the grave discomfort of the 
eldest girl, who sat beside me. 

After supper my uncle, in a few ill-chosen words, 
prayed me to repent before I slept. 

" Suppose you was took in your sleep, George," he 
said ; " where'd you be then ? You jest think of that, 
me boy." By this time I was thoroughly miserable and 
frightened, and this suggestion unnerved me dreadfully, 
but I kept up an impenitent front. " To wake in 'ell," 
said uncle Nicodemus, in gentle tones. " You don't 


want to wake in 'ell, George, bumin 1 and sereamhr 
for ever, do you ? You wouldn't like that ? " 

He tried very hard to get me to "jest 'ave a look 
at the bake'ouse fire " before I retired. " It might move 
you," he said. 

I was awake longest that night. My cousins slept 
the sleep of faith on either side of me. I decided I 
would whisper my prayers, and stopped midway because 
I was ashamed, and perhaps also because I had an idea 
one didn't square God like that. 

"No," I said, with a sudden confidence, "damn me 
if you're coward enough. . . . But you're not. . . . No! 
You couldn't be ! " 

I woke my cousins up with emphatic digs, and told 
them as much, triumphantly, and went very peacefully 
to sleep with my act of faith accomplished. 

I slept not only through that night, but for all my 
nights since then. So far as any fear of Divine injustice 
goes, I sleep soundly, and shall, I know, to the end of 
things. That declaration was an epoch in my spiritual 


But I didn't expect to have the whole meeting on 
Sunday turned on to me. 

It was. It all comes back to me, that convergence 
of attention, even the faint leathery smell of its atmo- 
sphere returns, and the coarse feel of my aunt's black 
dress beside me in contact with my hand. I see again 
the old Welsh milkman " wrestling" with me — they all 
wrestled with me, by prayer or exhortation. And I was 
holding out stoutly, though convinced now by the 


contagion of their universal conviction that by doing so 
I was certainly and hopelessly damned. I felt that they 
were right, that God was probably like them, and that 
on the whole it didn't matter. And to simplify the 
business thoroughly, I had declared I didn't believe any- 
thing at all. They confuted me by texts from Scripture, 
which I now perceive was an illegitimate method of reply. 
When I got home, still impenitent and eternally lost 
and secretly very lonely and miserable and alarmed, 
Uncle Nicodemus docked my Sunday pudding. 

One person only spoke to me like a human being on 
that day of wrath, and that was the younger Frapp. 
He came up to me in the afternoon while I was confined 
upstairs with a Bible and my own thoughts. 

" 'Ello," he said, and fretted about. 

" D'you mean to say there isn't — no one," he said, 
funking the word. 

" No one ? " 

"No one watching yer — always." 

" Why should there be ? " I asked. 

"You can't 'elp thoughts," said my cousin, 
"any'ow. . . . You mean " He stopped hover- 
ing. " I s'pose I oughtn't to be talking to you." 

He hesitated and flitted away with a guilty back 
glance over his shoulder. . . . 

The following week made life quite intolerable for 
me ; these people forced me at last into an Atheism 
that terrified me. When I learnt that next Sunday 
the wrestling was to be resumed, my courage failed me 

I happened upon a map of Kent in a stationer's 
window on Saturday, and that set me thinking of one 
form of release. I studied it intently for half an hour 
perhaps, on Saturday night, got a route list of villages 


well fixed in my memory, and got up and started for 
Bladesover about five on Sunday morning while my two 
bed- mates were still fast asleep. 

§ 3 

I remember something, but not so much of it as I 
should like to recall, of my long tramp to Bladesover 
House. The distance from Chatham is almost exactly 
seventeen miles, and it took me until nearly one. It 
was. very interesting and I do not think I was over- 
fatigued, though I got rather pinched by one boot. 

The morning must have been very clear, because I 
remember that near Itchinstow Hall I looked back and 
saw the estuary of the Thames, that river that has since 
played so large a part in my life. But at the time I 
did not know it was the Thames, I thought this great 
expanse of mud flats and water was the sea, which I 
had never yet seen nearly. And out upon it stood 
ships, sailing ships and a steamer or so, going up to 
London or down out into the great seas of the world. 
I stood for a long time watching these and thinking 
whether after all I should not have done better to have 
run away to sea. 

The nearer I drew to Bladesover, the more doubtful 
I grew of the quality of my reception, and the more I 
regretted that alternative. I suppose it was the dirty 
clumsiness of the shipping I had seen nearly, that put 
me out of mind of that. I took a short cut through 
the Warren across the corner of the main park to 
intercept the people from the church. I wanted to 
avoid meeting any one before I met my mother, and 
so I went to a place where the path passed between 


banks, and without exactly hiding, stood up among the 
bushes. This place, among other advantages, eliminated 
any chance of seeing Lady Drew, who would drive 
round by the carriage road. 

Standing up to waylay in this fashion, I had a 
queer feeling of brigandage, as though I was some 
intrusive sort of bandit among these orderly things. 
It is the first time I remember having that outlaw 
feeling distinctly, a feeling that has played a large 
part in my subsequent life. I felt there existed no 
place for me — that I had to drive myself in. 

Presently, down the hill, the servants appeared, 
straggling by twos and threes, first some of the garden 
people and the butler's wife with them, then the two 
laundry maids, odd inseparable old creatures, then the 
first footman talking to the butler's little girl, and at 
last, walking grave and breathless beside old Ann and 
Miss Fison, the black figure of my mother. 

My boyish mind suggested the adoption of a playful 
form of appearance. " Coo-ee, mother ! " said I, coming 
out against the sky, " Coo-ee ! " 

My mother looked up, went very white, and put her 
hand to her bosom. . . . 

I suppose there was a fearful fuss about me. And 
of course I was quite unable to explain my reappear- 
ance. But I held out stoutly, " I won't go back to 
Chatham ; I'll drown myself first." The next day my 
mother carried me off to Wimblehurst, took me fiercely 
and aggressively to an uncle I had never heard of before, 
near though the place was to us. She gave me no 
word as to what was to happen, and I was too subdued 
by her manifest wrath and humiliation at my last mis- 
demeanour to demand information. I don't for one 
moment think Lady Drew was " nice " about me. The 


finality of my banishment was endorsed and underlined 
and stamped home. I wished very much now that I 
had run away to sea, in spite of the coaly dust and 
squalor Rochester had revealed to me. Perhaps over- 
seas one came to different lands. 

§ 4 

I do not remember much of my journey to Wimble- 
hurst with my mother except the image of her as 
sitting bolt upright, as rather disdaining the third- 
class carriage in which we travelled, and how she looked 
away from me out of the window when she spoke of my 
uncle. " I have not seen your uncle," she said, " since 
he was a boy. . . ." She added grudgingly, " Then he 
was supposed to be clever." 1 

She took little interest in such qualities as cleverness. 

" He married about three years ago, and set up for 
himself in Wimblehurst. ... So I suppose she had 
some money." 

She mused on scenes she had long dismissed from 
her mind. "Teddy," she said at last in the tone of 
one who has been feeling in the dark and finds. " He 
was called Teddy . . . about your age. . . . Now he 
must be twenty-six or seven." 

I thought of my uncle as Teddy directly I saw 
him ; there was something in his personal appearance 
that in the light of that memory phrased itself at once 
as Teddiness— a certain Teddidity. To describe it in 
any other terms is more difficult. It is nimbleness 
without grace, and alertness without intelligence. He 
whisked out of his shop upon the pavement, a short 
figure in grey and wearing grey carpet slippers ; one 



had a sense of a young fattish face behind gilt glasses, 
wiry hair that stuck up and forward over the forehead, 
an irregular nose that had its aquiline moments, and 
that the body betrayed an equatorial laxity, an in- 
cipient " bow window " as the image goes. He jerked 
out of the shop, came to a stand on the pavement out- 
side, regarded something in the window with infinite 
appreciation, stroked his chin, and, as abruptly, shot 
sideways into the door again, charging through it as it 
were behind an extended hand. 

" That must be him, 11 said my mother, catching at 
her breath. 

We came past the window whose contents I was 
presently to know by heart, a very ordinary chemist's 
window except that there was a frictional electrical 
machine, an air-pump and two or three tripods and 
retorts replacing the customary blue, yellow, and red 
bottles above. There was a plaster of Paris hor^e to 
indicate veterinary medicines among these breakables, 
and below were scent packets and diffusers and sponges 
and soda-water syphons and such-like things. Only 
in the middle there M r as a rubricated card, very neatly 
painted by hand, with these words — 

Buy Ponderevo's Cough Linctus Now. 
NOW ! 

Twopence Cheaper than in Winter. 

You Store Apples ! why not the Medicine 

You are Bound to Need ? 


in which appeal I was to recognize presently my uncle's 
distinctive note. 

My uncle's face appeared above a card of infants' 
comforters in the glass pane of the door. I perceived 
his eyes were brown, and that his glasses creased his 
nose. It was manifest he did not know us from Adam. 
A stare of scrutiny allowed an expression of commercial 
deference to appear in front of it, and my uncle flung 
open the door. 

" You don't know me ?" panted my mother. 

My uncle would not own he did not, but his 
curiosity was manifest. My mother sat down on one 
of the little chairs before the soap and patent medicine- 
piled counter, and her lips opened and closed. 

" A glass of water, madam,"" said my uncle, waved 
his hand in a sort of curve, and shot away. 

My mother drank the water and spoke. '* That 
boy," she said, " takes after his father. He grows more 
like him every day, . . . and so I have brought him 
to you." 

" His father, madam ? " 

" George." 

For a moment the chemist was still at a loss. He 
stood behind the counter with the glass my mother had 
returned to him in his hand. Then comprehension 

" Bv Gosh ! " he said. " Lord ! " he cried. His 
glasses fell off. He disappeared, replacing them, 
behind a pile of boxed-up bottles of blood mixture. 
"Eleven thousand virgins!" I heard him cry. The 
glass was banged down. " O-ri-ental Gums ! " 

He shot away out of the shop through some masked 
door. One heard his voice. " Susan ! Susan ! " 

Then he reappeared with an extended hand. " Well, 


how arc you ? M he said. " I was never so surprised in 
my life. Fancy ! . . . You ! " 

He shook my mother's impassive hand and then 
mine very warmly, holding his glasses on with his left 

" Come right in ! 11 he cried — " come right in ! 
Better late than never ! M and led the way into the 
parlour behind the shop. 

After Bladesover that apartment struck me as 
stuffy and petty, but it was very comfortable in 
comparison with the Frapp living-room. It had a faint, 
disintegrating smell of meals about it, and my most 
immediate impression was of the remarkable fact that 
something was hung about or wrapped round or 
draped over everything There was bright-patterned 
muslin round the gas-bracket in the middle of the 
room, round the mirror over the mantel, stuff with 
ball fringe along the mantel and casing in the fireplace, 
— I first saw ball-fringe here — and even the lamp on the 
little bureau wore a shade like a large muslin hat. 
The table-cloth had ball-fringe, and so had the window 
curtains, and the carpet was a bed of roses. There 
were little cupboards on either side of the fireplace, 
and in the recesses, ill-made shelves packed with books, 
and enriched with pinked American cloth. There was 
a dictionary lying face downward on the table, and the 
open bureau was littered with foolscap paper and the 
evidences of recently abandoned toil. My eye caught, 
" The Ponderevo Patent Flat, a Machine you can Live 
in," written in large firm letters. My uncle opened a 
little door like a cupboard door in the corner of this 
room, and revealed the narrowest twist of staircase I 
had ever set eyes upon. " Susan ! he bawled again. 
" Wantjc. Some one to see you. SurprisinY 1 


There came an inaudible reply, and a sudden loud 
bump over our heads as of some article of domestic 
utility pettishly flung aside, then the cautious steps of 
some one descending the twist, and then my aunt 
appeared in the doorway with her hand upon the jamb. 

" It's Aunt Ponderevo," cried my uncle. " George's 
wife — and she's brought over her son ! " His eye roved 
about the room. He darted to the bureau with a 
sudden impulse, and turned the sheet about the patent 
flat face down. Then he waved his glasses at us, 
" You know, Susan, my elder brother George. I told 
you about 'im lots of times." 

He fretted across to the hearthrug and took up a 
position there, replaced his glasses and coughed. 

My aunt Susan seemed to be taking it in. She was 
then rather a pretty slender woman of twenty-three or 
four, I suppose, and I remember being struck by the 
blueness of her eyes and the clear freshness of her 
complexion. She had little features, a button nose, a 
pretty chin, and a long graceful neck that stuck out of 
her pale blue cotton morning dress. There was a look 
of half-assumed perplexity on her face, a little quizzical 
wrinkle of the brow that suggested a faintly amused 
attempt to follow my uncle's mental operations, a vain 
attempt and a certain hopelessness that had in succes- 
sion become habitual. She seemed to be saying, " Oh 
Lord ! What's he giving me this time ? " And as I 
came to know her better I detected, as a complication 
of her effort of apprehension, a subsidiary riddle to 
" What's he giving me ? " and that was — to borrow a 
phrase from my schoolboy language — "Is it keeps?" 
She looked at my mother and me, and back to her 
husband again. 

" You know," he said. " George ! " 


" Wei],'" she said to my mother, descending the 
last three steps of the staircase and holding out her 
hand, "you're welcome. Though it's a surprise. . . . 
I can't ask you to have anything, I'm afraid, for there 
isn't anything in the house.'" She smiled, and looked 
at her husband banteringly. "Unless he makes up 
something with his old chemicals, which he's quite 
equal to doing. 1 ' 

My mother shook hands stiffly, and told me to kiss 
my aunt. . . . 

" Well, let's all sit down," said my uncle, suddenly 
whistling through his clenched teeth, and briskly rub- 
bing his hands together. He put up a chair for my 
mother, raised the blind of the little window, lowered 
it again, and returned to his hearthrug. " I'm sure," he 
said, as one who decides, " I'm very glad to see you." 


As they talked I gave my attention pretty exclu- 
sively to my uncle. 

I noted him in great detail. I remember now his 
partially unbuttoned waistcoat, as though something 
had occurred to distract him as he did it up, and a 
little cut upon his chin. I liked a certain humour in 
his eyes. I watched too, with the fascination these 
things have for an observant boy, the play of his lips 
— they were a little oblique, and there was something 
" slipshod," if one may strain a word so far, about 
his mouth so that he lisped and sibilated ever and 
again — and the coming and going of a curious expres- 
sion, triumphant in quality it was, upon his face as he 
talked. He fingered his glasses, which did not seem to 


fit his nose, fretted with things in his waistcoat-pockets 
or put his hands behind him, looked over our heads, and 
ever and again rose to his toes and dropped back on his 
heels. He had a way of drawing air in at times through 
his teeth that gave a whispering zest to his speech. 
It's a sound I can only represent as a soft Zzzz. 

He did most of the talking. My mother repeated 
what she had already said in the shop, " I have brought 
George over to you, 11 and then desisted for a time from 
the real business in hand. " You find this a comfort- 
able house?'" she asked ; and this being affirmed: "It 
looks— very convenient. . . . Not too big to be a trouble 
— no. You like Wimblehurst, I suppose ? " 

My uncle retorted with some inquiries about the 
great people of Bladesover, and my mother answered 
in the character of a personal friend of Lady Drew's. 
The talk hung for a time, and then my uncle embarked 
upon a dissertation upon Wimblehurst. 

"This place,*" he began, "isn't of course quite the 
place I ought to be in.* 1 

My mother nodded as though she had expected that. 

" It gives me no Scope," he went on. " It's dead- 
and-alive. Nothing happens. 11 

"He"^ always wanting something to happen, 11 said 
my aunt Susan. " Some day hell get a shower of things 
and they'll be too much for him. 11 

" Not they, 11 said my uncle, buoyantly. 

"Do you find business — slack P 11 asked my mother. 

" Oh ! one rubs along. But there's no Development 
— no Growth. They just come along here and buy 
pills when they want 'em — and a horseball or such. 
They've got to be ill before there's a prescription. 
That sort they are. You can"t get 'em to launch out, 
you can't get 'em to take up anything new. Frinstance. 


I've been trying lately — induce them to buy their 
medicines in advance, and in larger quantities. But 
they won't look at it ! Then I tried to float a little 
notion of mine, sort of an insurance scheme for colds ; 
you pay so much a week, and when you've got a cold 
you get a bottle of Cough Linctus so long as you can 
produce a substantial sniff. See ? But Lord ! they've 
no capacity for ideas, they don't catch on ; no Jump 
about the place, no Life ! Live ! — they trickle, and 
what one has to do here is to trickle too — Zzzz. 11 

" Ah ! " said my mother. 

" It doesn't suit me," said my uncle. " I'm the 
cascading sort." 

"George was that," said my mother after a pon- 
dering moment. 

My aunt Susan took up the parable with an affec- 
tionate glance at her husband. 

" He's always trying to make his old business jump," 
she said. "Always putting fresh cards in the window, 
or getting up to something. You'd hardly believe. It 
makes me jump sometimes." 

" But it does no good," said my uncle. 

" It does no good," said his wife. " It's not his 
vi i loo. ..." 

Presently they came upon a wide pause. 

From the beginning of their conversation there had 
been the promise of this pause, and I pricked my ears. 
I knew perfectly what was bound to come ; they were 
going to talk of my father. I was enormously 
strengthened in my persuasion when I found my 
mother's eye resting thoughtfully upon me in the 
silence, and then my uncle looked at me and then my 
aunt. I struggled unavailingly to produce an expres- 
sion of meek stupidity. 


"I think," said my uncle, "that George will find 
it more amusing to have a turn in the market-place 
than to sit here talking with us. There's a pair of 
stocks there, George — very interesting. Old-fashioned 

" I don't mind sitting here,"" I said. 

My uncle rose and in the most friendly way led me 
through the shop. He stood on his doorstep and jerked 
amiable directions to me. 

" Ain't it sleepy, George, eh ? There's the butcher's 
dog over there, asleep in the road — half an hour from 
midday ! If the last Trump sounded I don't believe 
it would wake. Nobody would wake ! The chaps 
up there in the churchyard — they'd just turn over 
and say ; * Naar — you don't catch us, you don't ! 
See? 1 . . . Well, you'll find the stocks just round that 

He watched me out of sight. 

So I never heard what they said about my father 
after all. 

§ 6 

When I returned, my uncle had in some remarkable 
way become larger and central. " Tha'chu, George ? " 
he cried, when the shop-door bell sounded. " Come 
right through;' 1 and I found him, as it were, in the 
chairman's place before the draped grate. 

The three of them regarded me. 

" We have been talking of making you a chemist, 
George," said my uncle. 

My mother looked at me. " I had hoped," she said, 


" that Lady Drew would have done something for 
him ™ She stopped. 

" In what way ? " said my uncle. 

" She might have spoken to some one, got him into 
something perhaps. . . ." She had the servant's in- 
vincible persuasion that all good things are done by 

" He is not the sort of boy for whom things are 
done,'" she added, dismissing these dreams. " He doesn't 
accommodate himself. When he thinks Lady Drew 
wishes a thing, he seems not to wish it. Towards Mr. 
Redgrave too he has been — disrespectful — he is like his 
father. 11 

" Who's Mr. Redgrave ?" 

" The Vicar." 

" A bit independent ? ,1 said my uncle, briskly. 

" Disobedient," said my mother. " He has no idea 
of his place. He seems to think he can get on by 
slighting people and flouting them. Hell learn perhaps 
before it is too late." 

My uncle stroked his cut chin and regarded me. 
" Have you learnt any Latin ? " he asked abruptly. 

I said I had not. 

"He'll have to learn a little Latin," he explained 
to my mother, " to qualify. H'm. He could go down 
to the chap at the grammar school here — it's just been 
routed into existence again by the Charity Com- 
missioners — and have lessons." 

" What, me learn Latin ! " I cried, with emotion. 

" A little," he said. 

" I've always wanted " I said, and "Lathi /" 

I had long been obsessed by the idea that having 
no Latin was a disadvantage in the world, and Archie 
Garvell had driven the point of this pretty earnestly 


home. The literature I had read at Bladesover had all 
tended that way. Latin had had a quality of emanci- 
pation for me that I find it difficult to convey. And 
suddenly, when I had supposed all learning was at an 
end for me, I heard this ! 

" It's no good to you, of course,"" said my uncle, 
*' except to pass exams with, but there you are ! " 

"You'll have to learn Latin because you have to 
learn Latin, 1 ' said my mother, " not because you want 
to. And afterwards you will have to learn all sorts of 
other things. . . ." 

The idea that I was to go on learning, that to read 
and master the contents of books was still to be 
justifiable as a duty, overwhelmed all other facts. I 
had had it rather clear in my mind for some weeks that 
all that kind of opportunity might close to me for ever. 
I began to take a lively interest in this new project. 

"Then shall I live here?" I asked, " with you, and 
study ... as well as work in the shop ? . . «" 

" That's the way of it," said my uncle. 

I parted from my mother that day in a dream, so 
sudden and important was this new aspect of things to 
me. I was to learn Latin ! Now that the humiliation 
of my failure at Bladesover was past for her, now that 
she had a little got over her first intense repugnance 
at this resort to my uncle and contrived something that 
seemed like a possible provision for my future, the 
tenderness natural to a parting far more significant than 
any of our previous partings crept into her manner. 

She sat in the train to return, I remember, and I 
stood at the open door of her compartment, and neither 
of us knew how soon we should cease for ever to be a 
trouble to one another. 

You must be a good boy, George,''' she said. 



"You must learn. . . . And you mustn't set yourself 
up against those who are above you and better than 
you. ... Or envy them. ,, 

" No, mother, 11 I said. 

I promised carelessly. Her eyes were fixed upon 
me. I was wondering whether I could by any means 
begin Latin that night. 

Something touched her heart then, some thought, 
some memory ; perhaps some premonition. . . . The 
solitary porter began slamming carriage doors. 

" George, 11 she said hastily, almost shamefully, 
" kiss me ! M 

I stepped up into her compartment as she bent for- 
ward. She caught me in her arms quite eagerly, she 
pressed me to her — a strange thing for her to do. I 
perceived her eyes were extraordinarily bright, and 
then this brightness burst along the lower lids and 
rolled down her cheeks. 

For the first and last time in my life I saw my 
mother's tears. Then she had gone, leaving me dis- 
comforted and perplexed, forgetting for a time even 
that I was to learn Latin, thinking of my mother as of 
something new and strange. 

The thing recurred though I sought to dismiss it; 
it stuck itself into my memory against the dav of fuller 
understanding. Poor proud, habitual, sternly narrow 
soul ! poor difficult and misunderstanding son ! it was 
the first time that ever it dawned upon me that my 
mother also might perhaps feel. 




My mother died suddenly and, it was thought by 
Lady Drew, inconsiderately, the following spring. Pier 
ladyship instantly fled to Folkestone with Miss Somer- 
ville and Fison, until the funeral should be over and 
my mother's successor installed. 

My uncle took me over to the funeral. I remember 
there was a sort of prolonged crisis in the days preced- 
ing this, because, directly he heard of my loss, he had 
sent a pair of check trousers to the Judkins people in 
London to be dyed black, and they did not come back 
in time. He became very excited on the third day, 
and sent a number of increasingly fiery telegrams with- 
out any result whatever, and succumbed next morning 
with a very ill grace to my aunt Susan's insistence upon 
the resources of his dress-suit. In my memory those 
black legs of his, in a particularly thin and shiny black 
cloth — for evidently his dress-suit dated from adolescent 
and slenderer days — straddle like the Colossus of Rhodes 
over my approach to my mothers funeral. Moreover, 
I was inconvenienced and distracted by a silk hat he 
had bought me, my first silk hat, much ennobled, as 
his was also, by a deep mourning band. 

I remember, but rather indistinctly, my mother's 
white-panelled housekeeper's room and the touch of 
oddness about it that she was not there, and the various 
familiar faces made strange by black, and I seem to 
recall the exaggerated self-consciousness that arose out 
of their focussed attention. No doubt the sense of the 
new silk hat came and went and came again in my 
emotional chaos. Then something comes out clear and 
sorrowful, rises out clear and sheer from among all these 
rather base and inconsequent things, and once again I 


walk before all the other mourners close behind her 
coffin as it is carried along the churchyard path to her 
grave, with the old Vicar's slow voice saying regret- 
fully and unconvincingly above me, triumphant solemn 

" I am the resurrection and the life, saith the Lord ; 
he that believeth in Me, though he were dead, yet 
shall he live : and whosoever liveth and believeth in 
Me shall never die. ,1 

Never die ! The day was a high and glorious 
morning in spring, and all the trees were budding and 
bursting into green. Everywhere there were blossoms 
and flowers ; the pear trees and cherry trees in the 
sexton's garden were sunlit snow, there were nodding 
daffodils and early tulips in the graveyard beds, great 
multitudes of daisies, and everywhere the birds seemed 
singing. And in the middle was the brown coffin end, 
tilting on men's shoulders, and half occluded by the 
vicar's Oxford hood. 

And so we came to my mother's waiting grave. . . . 

For a time I was very observant, watching the coffin 
lowered, hearing the words of the ritual. It seemed a 
very curious business altogether. 

Suddenly as the service drew to its end, I felt some- 
thing had still to be said which had not been said, 
realized that she had withdrawn in silence, neither 
forgiving me nor hearing from me — those now lost 
assurances. Suddenly I knew I had not understood. 
Suddenly I saw her tenderly ; remembered not so much 
tender or kindly things of her as her crossed wishes 
and the ways in which I had thwarted her. Sur- 
prisingly I realized that behind all her hardness and 
severity she had loved me, that I was the only thing 
she had ever loved, and that until this moment I had 


never loved her. And now she was there and deaf and 
blind to me, pitifully defeated in her designs for me, 
covered from me so that she could not know. . . . 

I dug my nails into the palms of my hands, I set 
my teeth, but tears blinded me, sobs would have choked 
me had speech been required of me. The old vicar read 
on, there came a mumbled response — and so on to the 
end. I wept as it were internally, and only when we 
had come out of the churchyard could I think and 
speak calmly again. 

Stamped across this memory are the little black 
figures of my uncle and Rabbits, telling Avebary the 
sexton and undertaker that " it had all passed off very 
well — very well indeed." 


That is the last I shall tell of Bladesover. The 
drop-scene falls on that, and it comes no more as an 
actual presence into this novel. I did indeed go back 
there once again, but under circumstances quite imma- 
terial to my story. But in a sense Bladesover has never 
left me ; it is, as I said at the outset, one of those 
dominant explanatory impressions that make the frame- 
work of my mind. Bladesover illuminates England ; 
it has become all that is spacious, dignified, pretentious, 
and truly conservative in English life. It is my social 
datum. That is why I have drawn it here on so large 
a scale. 

When I came back at last to the real Bladesover on 
an inconsequent visit, everything was far smaller than 
I could have supposed possible. It was as though 
evervthing had shivered and shrivelled a little at the 


Lichtenstein touch. The harp was still in the saloon, 
but there was a different grand piano with a painted 
lid and a metrostyle pianola, and an extraordinary 
quantity of artistic litter and bric-a-brac scattered about. 
There was the trail of the Bond Street showroom over 
it all. The furniture was still under chintz, but it 
wasn't the same sort of chintz although it pretended to 
be, and the lustre-dangling chandeliers had passed 
away. Lady Lichtenstein's books replaced the brown 
volumes I had browsed among — they were mostly 
presentation copies of contemporary novels and the 
National Reviezv and the Empire Review, and the 
Nineteenth Century and After jostled current books on 
the tables — English new books in gaudy catchpenny 
" artistic " covers, French and Italian novels in yellow, 
German art handbooks of almost incredible ugliness. 
There were abundant evidences that her ladyship was 
playing with the Keltic renascence, and a great number 
of ugly cats made of china — she " collected" china and 
stoneware cats — stood about everywhere — in all colours, 
in all kinds of deliberately comic, highly glazed 


It is nonsense to pretend that finance makes any 
better aristocrats than rent. Nothing can make an aris- 
tocrat but pride, knowledge, training, and the sword. 
These people were no improvement on the Drews, none 
whatever. There was no effect of a beneficial re- 
placement of passive unintelligent people by active 
intelligent ones. One felt that a smaller but more enter- 
prising and intensely undignified variety of stupidity had 
replaced the large dulness of the old gentry, and that 
was all. Bladesover, I thought, had undergone just 
the same change between the seventies and the new 
century that had overtaken the dear old Times, and 


heaven knows how much more of the decorous British 
fabric. These Lichtensteins and their like seem to 
have no promise in them at all of any fresh vitality for 
the kingdom. I do not believe in their intelligence or 
their power — they have nothing new about them at all, 
nothing creative nor rejuvenescent, no more than a 
disorderly instinct of acquisition ; and the prevalence of 
them and their kind is but a phase in the broad slow 
decay of the great social organism of England. They 
could not have made Bladesover, they cannot replace 
it; they just happen to break out over it— sapro- 
phytical 1 ) 7 . 

Well, — that was my last impression of Bladesover. 


The Wimblehurst Apprenticeship 


So far as I can remember now, except for that one 
emotional phase by the graveside, I passed through all 
these experiences rather callously. I had already, with 
the facility of youth, changed my world, ceased to think 
at all of the old school routine, and put Bladesover 
aside for digestion at a latter stage. I took up my new 
world in Wimblehurst with the chemist's shop as its 
hub, set to work at Latin and materia medica, and con- 
centrated upon the present with all my heart. Wimble- 
hurst is an exceptionally quiet and grey Sussex town, 
rare among south of England towns in being largely 
built of stone. I found something very agreeable and 
picturesque in its clean cobbled streets, its odd turnings 
and abrupt corners, and in the pleasant park that 
crowds up one side of the town. The whole place is 
under the Eastry dominion, and it was the Eastry 
influence and dignity that kept its railway station a 
mile and three-quarters away. Eastry House is so close 
that it dominates the whole ; one goes across the 
market-place (with its old lock-up and stocks), past the 
great pre-Reformation church, a fine grey shell, like some 
empty skull from which the life has fled, and there at 



once are the huge wrought- iron gates, and one peeps 
through them to see the facade of this place, very 
white and large and fine, down a long avenue of yews. 
Eastry was far greater than Bladesover, and an alto- 
gether completer example of the eighteenth-century 
system. It ruled not two villages but a borough, that 
had sent its sons and cousins to parliament almost as a 
matter of right so long as its franchise endured. Every 
one was in the system, every one — except my uncle. He 
stood out and complained. 

My uncle was the first real breach I found in the 
great front of Bladesovery the world had presented me, 
for Chatham was not so much a breach as a confirmation. 
But my uncle had no respect for Bladesover and Eastry 
— none whatever. He did not believe in them. He was 
blind even to what they were. He propounded strange 
phrases about them, he exfoliated and wagged about 
novel and incredible ideas. 

"This place," said my uncle, surveying it from his 
open doorway in the dignified stillness of a summer 
afternoon, " wants Waking Up ! M 

I was sorting up patent medicines in the corner. 

" Fd like to let a dozen young Americans loose into 
it," said my uncle. " Then we'd see." 

I made a tick against Mother Shipton's Sleeping 
Syrup. We had cleared our forward stock. 

" Things must be happening somewhere, George, 1 " he 
broke out in a querulously rising note as he came back 
into the little shop. He fiddled with the piled dummy 
boxes of fancy soap and scent and so forth that 
adorned the end of the counter, then turned about 
petulantly, stuck his hands deeply into his pockets and 
withdrew one to scratch his head. " I must do some- 
thing^ he said. " I can't stand it. 


" I must invent something. And shove it. ... I 

" Or a play. There's a deal of money in a play, 
George. What would you think of me writing a 
play — eh? . . . There's all sorts of things to be 

" Or the s 1 02;- igs change." 

He fell into that meditative whistling of his. 

" Sac-ramental wine ! " he swore, " this isn't the 
world— it's Cold Mutton Fat ! That's what Wimble- 
hurst is ! Cold Mutton Fat ! — dead and stiff! And 
fm buried in it up to the arm -pits. Nothing ever 
happens, nobody wants things to happen 'scept me ! 
Up in London, George, things happen. America ! 
I wish to Heaven, George, I'd been born American — ■ 
where things hum. 

" W T hat can one do here ? How can one grow ? 
While we're sleepin' here with our Capital oozing away 
— into Lord Eastry's pockets for rent — men are up 
there. . . ." He indicated London as remotely over 
the top of the dispensing counter, and then as a scene 
of great activity by a whirl of the hand and a wink 
and a meaning smile at me. 

" What sort of things do they do ? " I asked. 

" Rush about," he said. " Do things ! Somethin* 
glorious. There's cover gambling. Ever heard of that, 
George ? " He drew the air in through his teeth. 
" You put down a hundred, say, and buy ten thousand 
pounds' worth. See ? That's a cover of one per cent. 
Things go up one, you sell, realize cent, per cent. ; 
down, whiff, it's gone ! Try again ! Cent, per cent., 
George, every day. Men are made or done for in an 
hour. And the shoutin' ! Zzzz. . . . Well, that's one 
way, George. Then another way — there's Corners ! " 


" They're rather big things, aren't they ? " I 

" Oh, if you go in for wheat or steel — yes. But 
suppose you tackled a little thing, George. Just some 
leetle thing that only needed a few thousands. Drugs, 
for example. Shoved all you had into it — staked your 
liver on it, so to speak. Take a drug — take ipecac, for 
example. Take a lot of ipecac. Take all there is ! 
See ? There you are ! There aren't unlimited supplies 
of ipecacuanha — can't be ! — and it's a thing people must 
have. Then quinine again ! You watch your chance, 
wait for a tropical war breaking out, let's say, and 
collar all the quinine. Where are they ? Must have 
quinine, you know. Eh ? Zzzz. 

" Lord ! there's no end of things — no end of little 
things. Dill-water — all the sufTring babes yowling 
for it. Eucalyptus again — cascara — witch hazel — ■ 
menthol — all the toothache things. Then there's anti- 
septics, and curare, cocaine. . . ." 

" Rather a nuisance to the doctors," I reflected. 

" They got to look out for themselves. By Jove, 
yes. They'll do you if they can, and you do them. 
Like brigands. That makes it romantic. That's the 
Romance of Commerce, George. You're in the moun- 
tains there ! Think of having all the quinine in the 
world, and some millionaire's pampud wife gone ill 
with malaria, eh ? That's a squeeze, George, eh ? 
Eh ? Millionaire on his motor car outside, offerin": vou 
any price you liked. That 'ud wake up Wimble- 
hurst. . . . Lord ! You haven't an Idea down here. 
Not an idea. Zzzz." 

He passed into a rapt dream, from which escaped 
such fragments as: "Fifty per cent, advance, Sir; 
security — to-morrow. Zzzz." 



The idea of cornering a drug struck upon my mind 
then as a sort of irresponsible monkey trick that no 
one would ever be permitted to do in reality. It was 
the sort of nonsense one would talk to make Ewart 
laugh and set him going on to still odder possibilities. 
I thought it was part of my uncle's way of talking. 
But I've learnt diffei-ently since. The whole trend of 
modern money-making is to foresee something that 
will presently be needed and put it out of reach, and 
then to haggle yourself wealthy. You buy up land 
upon which people will presently want to build houses, 
you secure rights that will bar vitally important de- 
velopments, and so on, and so on. Of course the naive 
intelligence of a boy does not grasp the subtler develop- 
ments of human inadequacy. He begins life with a 
disposition to believe in the wisdom of grown-up 
people, he does not realize how casual and disingenuous 
has been the development of law and custom, and he 
thinks that somewhere in the state there is a power as 
irresistible as a head master's to check mischievous 
and foolish enterprises of every sort. I will confess 
that when my uncle talked of cornering quinine, I had 
a clear impression that any one who contrived to do 
that would pretty certainly go to jail. Now I know 
that any one who could really bring it off would be 
much more likely to go to the House of Lords ! 

My uncle ranged over the gilt labels of his bottles 
and drawers for a while, dreaming of corners in this 
and that. But at last he reverted to Wimblehurst 

" You got to be in London when these things are 
in hand. Down here ! 

" Jee-rusalem ! " he cried. " Why did I plant myself 
here ? Everything's done. The game's over. Here's 


Lord Eastry, and he's got everything, except what his 
lawyers get, and before you get any more change this 
way you'll have to dynamite him — and them. He 
doesn't want anything more to happen. Why should 
he ? Any change 'ud be a loss to him. He wants 
everything to burble along and burble along and go on 
as it's going for the next ten thousand years, Eastry 
after Eastry, one parson down another come, one 
grocer dead, get another ! Any one with any ideas 
better go away. They have gone away ! Look at all 
these blessed people in this place ! Look at 'em ! All 
fast asleep, doing their business ont of habit — in a sort 
of dream. Stuffed men would do just as well — just. 
They've all shook down into their places. They don't 
want anything to happen either. They're all broken 
in. There you are ! Only what are they all alive 
for ? . . . 

"Why can't they get a clockwork chemist?'" 
He concluded as he often concluded these talks. " I 
must invent something, — that's about what I must do. 
Zzzz. Some convenience. Something people want. . » . 
Strike out. . . . You can't think, George, of anything 
everybody wants and hasn't got? I mean something 
you could turn out retail under a shilling, say ? Well, 
you think, whenever you haven't got anything better 
to do. See ? " 


So I remember my uncle in that first phase, young, 
but already a little fat, restless, fretful, garrulous, 
putting in my fermenting head all sorts of discrepant 
ideas. Certainly he was educational. ... 


For me the years at Wimblehurst were years of 
pretty active growth. Most of my leisure and much 
of my time in the shop I spent in study. I speedily 
mastered the modicum of Latin necessary for my quali- 
fying examinations, and — a little assisted by the 
Government Science and Art Department classes that 
were held in the Grammar School — went on with my 
mathematics. There were classes in physics, in chemistry, 
in mathematics and machine drawing, and I took up 
all these subjects with considerable avidity. Exercise 
I got chiefly in the form of walks. There was some 
cricket in the summer and football in the winter 
sustained by young men's clubs that levied a parasitic 
blackmail on the big people and the sitting member, 
but I was never very keen at these games. I didn't 
find any very close companions among the youths of 
Wimblehurst. They struck me, after my Cockney 
schoolmates, as loutish and slow, servile and furtive, 
spiteful and mean. We used to swagger, but these 
countrymen dragged their feet and hated an equal who 
didn't ; we talked loud, but you only got the real 
thoughts of Wimblehurst in a knowing undertone 
behind its hand. And even then they weren't much in 
the way of thoughts. 

No, I didn't like those young countrymen, and I'm 
no believer in the English country-side under the 
Bladesover system as a breeding-ground for honourable 
men. One hears a frightful lot of nonsense about the 
Rural Exodus and the degeneration wrought by town 
life upon our population. To my mind, the English 
townsman even in the slums is infinitely better 
spiritually, more courageous, more imaginative and 
cleaner, than his agricultural cousin. I've seen 
them both when they didn't think they were being 


observed, and I know. There was something about 
my Wimblehurst companions that disgusted me. It's 
hard to define. Heaven knows that at that cockney 
boarding school at Goudhurst we were coarse enough, 
the Wimblehurst youngsters had neither words nor 
courage for the sort of thing we used to do — for our 
bad language, for example ; but, on the other hand, they 
displayed a sort of sluggish, real lewdness — lewdness 
is the word — a baseness of attitude. "Whatever we 
exiled urbans did at Goudhurst was touched with some- 
thing, however coarse, of romantic imagination. We 
had read the Boys of England, and told each other 
stories. In the English country-side there are no books 
at all, no songs, no drama, no valiant sin even ; all 
these things have never come or they were taken away 
and hidden generations ago, and the imagination aborts 
and bestializes. That, I think, is where the real 
difference against the English rural man lies. It is 
because I know this that I do not share in the common 
repinings because our country-side is being depopulated, 
because our population is passing through the furnace 
of the towns. They starve, they suffer no doubt, but 
they come out of it hardened, they come out of it with 
souls. . . . 

Of an evening the Wimblehurst blade, shiny -faced 
from a wash and with some loud finery, a coloured 
waistcoat or a vivid tie, would betake himself to the 
Eastry Arms billiard-room, or to the bar parlour of 
some minor pub where nap could be played. One soon 
sickened of his slow knowingness, the cunning observa- 
tion of his deadened eyes, his idea of a " good story," 
always, always told in undertones, poor dirty worm ! 
his shrewd elaborate manoeuvres for some petty advan- 
tage, a drink to the good or suchlike deal. There 


rises before my eyes as I write, young Hopley Dodd 
the son of the Wimblchurst auctioneer, the pride of 
Wimblehurst, its finest flower, with his fur waistcoat 
and his bulldog pipe, his riding-breeches — he had no 
horse — and his gaiters, as he used to sit, leaning forward 
and watching the billiard-table from under the brim 
of his artfully tilted hat. A half-dozen phrases con- 
stituted his conversation : " Hard lines ! " he used to 
say, and " Good baazness, 1 ' in a bass bleat. Moreover, 
he had a long slow whistle that was esteemed the very 
cream of humorous comment. Night after night he 
was there. . . . 

Also, you know, he would not understand that / 
could play billiards, and regarded every stroke I made 
as a fluke. For a beginner I didn't play so badly, I 
thought. Tin not so sure now ; that was my opinion 
at the time. But young Dodd's scepticism and the 
" good baazness " finally cured me of my disposition 
to frequent the Eastry Arms, and so these noises had 
their value in my world. 

I made no friends among the young men of the 
place at all, and though I was entering upon adolescence 
I have no love-affair to tell of here. Not that I was 
not waking up to that aspect of life in my middle teens. 
I did, indeed, in various slightly informal ways scrape 
acquaintance with casual Wimblehurst girls ; with a 
little dressmaker's apprentice I got upon shyly speak- 
ing terms, and a pupil teacher in the National School 
went further and was " talked about n in connection 
with me ; but I was not by any means touched by any 
reality of passion for either of these young people ; 
love — love as yet came to me only in my dreams. I 
only kissed these girls once or twice. They rather 
disconcerted than developed those dreams. They were 


so clearly not " it." I shall have much to say of love in 
this story, but I may break it to the reader now that it 
is my role to be a rather ineffectual lover. Desire I 
know well enough — indeed, too well ; but love I have 
been shy of. In all my early enterprises in the war of 
the sexes, I was torn between the urgency of the body 
and a habit of romantic fantasy that wanted every 
phase of the adventure to be generous and beautiful. 
And I had a curiously haunting memory of Beatrice, of 
her kisses in the bracken and her kiss upon the wall, 
that somehow pitched the standard too high for 
Wimblehurst's opportunities. I will not deny I did in 
a boyish way attempt a shy, rude adventure or so in 
love-making at Wimblehurst ; but through these various 
influences, I didn't bring things off to any extent at all. 
I left behind me no devastating memories, no splendid 
reputation. I came away at last, still inexperienced 
and a little thwarted, with only a natural growth of 
interest and desire in sexual things. 

If I fell in love with any one in Wimblehurst it 
was with my aunt. She treated me with a kindliness 
that was only half maternal — she petted my books, she 
knew about my certificates, she made fun of me in a 
way that stirred my heart to her. Quite unconsciously 
I grew fond of her. . . . 

My adolescent years at Wimblehurst were on the 
whole laborious, uneventful years that began in short 
jackets and left me in many ways nearly a man, years 
so uneventful that the Calculus of Variations is associated 
with one winter, and an examination in Physics for 
Science and Art Department Honours marks an epoch. 
Many divergent impulses stirred within me, but the 
master impulse was a grave young disposition to work 
and learn, and thereby in some not very clearly defined 


way get out of the Wimblehurst world into which I had 
fallen. I wrote with some frequency to Ewart, self-con- 
scious, but, as I remember them, not unintelligent letters, 
dated in Latin and with lapses into Latin quotation that 
roused Ewart to parody. There was something about 
me in those days more than a little priggish. But it was, 
to do myself justice, something more than the petty pride 
of learning. I had a very grave sense of discipline and 
preparation that I am not ashamed at all to remember. 
I was serious. More serious than I am at the present 
time. More serious, indeed, than any adult seems to 
be. I was capable then of efforts — of nobilities. . . . 
They are beyond me now. I don't see why, at forty, 
I shouldn't confess I respect my own youth. I had 
dropped being a boy quite abruptly. I thought I was 
presently to go out into a larger and quite important 
world and do significant things there. I thought I was 
destined to do something definite to a world that had 
a definite purpose. I did not understand then, as I do 
now, that life was to consist largely in the world's doing 
things to me. Young people never do seem to under- 
stand that aspect of things. And, as I say, among my 
educational influences my uncle, all unsuspected, played 
a leading part, and perhaps among other things gave 
my discontent with Wimblehurst, my desire to get 
away from that clean and picturesque emptiness, a form 
and expression that helped to emphasize it. In a way 
that definition made me patient. "Presently I shall 
get to London,'" I said, echoing him. 

I remember him now as talking, always talking, in 
those days. He talked to me of theology, he talked of 
politics, of the wonders of science and the marvels of 
art, of the passions and the affections, of the immortality 
of the soul and the peculiar actions of drugs ; but 


predominantly and constantly he talked of getting on, of 
enterprises, of inventions and great fortunes, of Roths- 
childs, silver kings, Vanderbilts, Goulds, flotations, 
realizations and the marvellous ways of Chance with 
men — in all localities, that is to say, that are not 
absolutely sunken to the level of Cold Mutton Fat. 

When I think of those early talks, I figure him 
always in one of three positions. Either we were in 
the dispensing lair behind a high barrier, he pounding 
up stuff in a mortar perhaps, and I rolling pill-stuft' 
into long rolls and cutting it up with a sort of broad, 
fluted knife, or he stood looking out of the shop door 
against the case of sponges and spray-diff'users, while I 
surveyed him from behind the counter, or he leant 
against the little drawers behind the counter, and I 
hovered dusting in front. The thought of those early 
days brings back to my nostrils the faint smell of scent 
that was always in the air, marbled now with streaks of 
this drug and now of that, and to my eyes the rows of 
jejune glass bottles with gold labels, mirror-reflected, 
that stood behind him. My aunt, I remember, used 
sometimes to come into the shop in a state of aggres- 
sive sprightliness, a sort of connubial ragging expedi- 
tion, and get much fun over the abbreviated Latinity 
of those gilt inscriptions. "01 Amjig, George, 11 she 
would read derisively, "and he pretends it's almond oil '. 
Snap ! — and that's mustard. Did you Ever, George ? 

" Look at him, George, looking dignified. I'd like 
to put an old label on to him round the middle like his 
bottles are, with 01 Pondo on it. That's Latin for 
Impostor, George — must be. He'd look lovely with a 

" You want a stopper," said my uncle, projecting 
his face. . . . 


My aunt, dear soul, was in those days quite thin 
and slender, with a delicate rosebud complexion and a 
disposition to connubial badinage, to a sort of gentle 
skylarking. There was a silvery ghost of lisping in her 
speech. She was a great humourist, and as the constraint 
of my presence at meals wore off, I became more and 
more aware of a filmy but extensive net of nonsense she 
had woven about her domestic relations until it had 
become the reality of her life. She affected a derisive 
attitude to the world at large, and applied the epithet 
" old" to more things than I have ever heard linked to 
it before or since. ** Here's the old newspaper, 11 she 
used to say to my uncle. " Now don't go and get it in 
the butter, you silly old Sardine ! " 

" What's the day of the week, Susan ? 11 my uncle 
would ask. 

" Old Monday, Sossidge,* 1 she would say, and add, 
" I got all my Old Washing to do. Don't I know 
it • ,1 

She had evidently been the wit and joy of a large 
circle of schoolfellows, and this style had become a 
second nature with her. It made her very delightful to 
me in that quiet place. Her customary walk even had 
a sort of hello ! in it. Her chief preoccupation in life 
was, I believe, to make my uncle laugh, and when by 
some new nickname, some new quaintness or absurdity, 
she achieved that end, she was, behind a mask of sober 
amazement, the happiest woman on earth. My uncle's 
laugh when it did come, I must admit, was, as Baedeker 
says, " rewarding." It began with gusty blowings and 
snortings, and opened into a clear " Ha ha ! " but in its 
fullest development it included, in those youthful days, 
falling about anyhow and doubling up tightly, and 
whackings of the stomach, and tears and cries of 


anguish, I never in my life heard my uncle laugh to 
his maximum except at her, he was commonly too much 
in earnest for that, and he didn't laugh much at all, to 
my knowledge, after those early years. Also she threw 
things at him to an enormous extent in her resolve to 
keep things lively in spite of Wimblehurst ; sponges out 
of stock she threw, cushions, balls of paper, clean wash- 
ing, bread ; and once up the yard when they thought 
that I and the errand boy and the diminutive maid of 
all work were safely out of the way, she smashed a 
boxful of eight-ounce bottles I had left to drain, 
assaulting my uncle with a new soft broom. Sometimes 
she would shy things at me — but not often. There 
seemed always laughter round and about her — all 
three of us would share hysterics at times — and on one 
occasion the two of them came home from church shock- 
ingly ashamed of themselves, because of a storm of mirth 
during the sermon. The vicar, it seems, had tried to 
blow his nose with a black glove as well as the customary 
pocket-handkerchief. And afterwards she had picked 
up her own glove by the finger, and looking innocently 
but intently sideways, had suddenly by this simple 
expedient exploded my uncle altogether. We had it 
all over again at dinner. 

"But it shows you," cried my uncle, suddenly 
becoming grave, " what Wimblehurst is, to have us all 
laughing at a little thing like that ! We weren't the 
only ones that giggled. Not by any means ! And, 
Lord ! it was funny ! " 

Socially, my uncle and aunt were almost completely 
isolated. In places like Wimblehurst the tradesmen's 
wives always are isolated socially, all of them, unless 
they have a sister or a bosom friend among the other 
wives, but the husbands met in various bar-parlours or 


in the billiard-room of the Eastry Arms. Bat my 
uncle, for the most part, spent his evenings at home. 
When first he arrived in Wimblehurst I think he had 
spread his effect of abounding ideas and enterprise 
rather too aggressively ; and Wimblehurst, after a 
temporary subjugation, had rebelled and done its best 
to make a butt of him. His appearance in a public- 
house led to a pause in any conversation that was 
going on. 

"Come to tell us about everything, Mr. PoikV- 
revo ? n some one would say politely. 

" You wait," my uncle used to answer, disconcerted, 
and sulk for the rest of his visit. 

Or some one with an immense air of innocence 
would remark to the world generally, " They're talkin" 1 
of rebuildm' Wimblehurst all over again, I'm told. 
Anybody heard anything of it ? Going to make it a 
regular smart-goin 1 , enterprisin 1 place — kind of Crystal 

" Earthquake and a pestilence before you get that" 
my uncle would mutter, to the infinite delight of 
every one, and add something inaudible about "Cold 
Mutton Fat." ... 


We were torn apart by a financial accident to my 
uncle of which I did not at first grasp the full bearings. 
He had developed what I regarded as an innocent 
intellectual recreation which he called stock-market 
meteorology. I think he got the idea from the use of 
curves in the graphic presentation of associated varia- 
tions that he saw me plotting. He secured some of my 


squared paper and, having cast about for a time, decided 
to trace the rise and fall of certain mines and railways. 
"There's something in this, George, 1 ' he said, and I 
little dreamt that among other things that were in it, 
was the whole of his spare money and most of what my 
mother had left to him in trust for me. 

" It's as plain as can be," he said. " See, here's one 
system of waves and here's another ! These are prices 
for Union Pacifies — extending over a month. Now 
next week, mark my words, they'll be down one whole 
point. We're getting near the steep part of the curve 
again. See ? It's absolutely scientific. It's verifiable. 
Well, and apply it ! You buy in the hollow and sell 
on the crest, and — there you are ! " 

I was so convinced of the triviality of this amuse- 
ment that to find at last that he had taken it in the 
most disastrous earnest overwhelmed me. 

He took me for a long walk to break it to me, over 
the hills towards Yare and across the great gorse 
commons by Hazelbrow. 

" There are ups and downs in life, George," he said 
— halfway across that great open space, and paused 
against the sky. ..." I left out one factor in the Union 
Pacific analysis." 

" Did you ? " I said, struck by the sudden change 
in his voice. " But you don't mean ? " 

I stopped and turned on him in the narrow sandy 
rut of pathway, and he stopped likewise. 

" I do, George. 1 do mean. It's bust me ! I'm a 
bankrupt here and now." 

" Then ? " 

"The shop's bust too. I shall have to get out of 

" And me ? " 


" Oh, you ! — yoiire all right. You can transfer 
your apprenticeship, and — er — well, Tin not the sort of 
man to be careless with trust funds, you can be sure. 
I kept that aspect in mind. There's some 'of it left, 
George — trust me ! — quite a decent little sum." 

"But you and aunt ? " 

" It isn't quite the way we meant to leave Wimble- 
hurst, George ; but we shall have to go. Sale ; all the 
things shoved about and ticketed — lot a hundred and 
one. Ugh ! . . . It's been a larky little house in some 
ways. The first we had. Furnishing — a spree in its 
way. . . . Very happy. . . . ,1 His face winced at some 
memory. " Let's go on, George," he said shortly, near 
choking, I could see. 

I turned my back on him, and did not look round 
again for a little while. 

"That's how it is, you see, George," I heard him 
after a time. 

When we were back in the hio-h-road acrain he came 
alongside, and for a time we walked in silence. 

" Don't say anything home yet," he said presently. 
" Fortunes of War. I got to pick the proper time Avith 
Susan — else shell get depressed. Not that she isn't a 
first-rate brick whatever comes along. " 

" All right," I said, " I'll be careful " and it seemed 
to me for the time altogether too selfish to bother him 
with any further inquiries about his responsibility as 
mv trustee. He gave a little sio;h of relief at mv note 
of assent, and was presently talking quite cheerfully of 
his plans. . . . But he had, I remember, one lapse into 
moodiness that came and went suddenly. " Those 
others ! " he said, as though the thought had stung him 
for the first time. 

" What others ? " I asked. 


" Damn them ! " said he. 
"But what others ?" 

" All those damned stick-in-the-mud-and-die-slowly 
tradespeople - : Ruck, the butcher, Marbel, the grocer. 
Snape ! Gord ! George, how they'll grin ! " . . . 

I thought him over in the next few weeks, and I 
remember now in great detail the last walk we had 
together before he handed over the shop and me to his 
successor. For he had the good luck to sell his business, 
" lock, stock, and barrel " — in which expression I found 
myself and my indentures included. The horrors of a 
sale by auction of the furniture even were avoided. 

I remember that either coming or going on that 
occasion, Ruck, the butcher, stood in his doorway and 
regarded us with a grin that showed his long teeth. 

" You half-witted hog ! " said my uncle. " You 
grinning hyaena; 1 ' and then, " Pleasant day, Mr. Ruck. 1 '' 
"Gom" to make your fortun' in London, than?" 
said Mr. Ruck, with slow enjoyment. 

That last excursion took us along the causeway to 
Beeching, and so up the downs and round almost as 
far as Steadhurst, home. My moods, as we went, made 
a mingled web. By this time I had really grasped the 
fact that my uncle had, in plain English, robbed me ; 
the little accumulations of my mother, six hundred 
pounds and more, that would have educated me and 
started me in business, had been eaten into and was 
mostly gone into the unexpected hollow that ought to 
have been a crest of the Union Pacific curve, and of 
the remainder he still gave no account. I was too 
young and inexperienced to insist on this or know how 
to get it, but the thought of it all made streaks of 
decidedly black anger in that scheme of interwoven 
feelings. And you know, I was also acutely sorry for 


him — almost as sorry as I was for my aunt Susan. Even 
then I had quite found him out. I knew him to be 
weaker than myself; his incurable, irresponsible childish- 
ness was as clear to me then as it was on his death- 
bed, his redeeming and excusing imaginative silliness. 
Through some odd mental twist, perhaps, I was disposed 
to exonerate him even at the cost of blaming my poor 
old mother who had left things in his untrustworthy 

I should have forgiven him altogether, I believe, if 
he had been in any manner apologetic to me ; but he 
wasn't that. He kept reassuring me in a way I found 
irritating. Mostly, however, his solicitude was for Aunt 
Susan and himself. 

"It's these Crises, George," he said, " try Character. 
Your aunt's come out well, my boy." 

He made meditative noises for a space. 

" Had her cry, of course " — the thing had been only 
too painfully evident to me in her eyes and swollen face 
— " who wouldn't ? But now — buoyant again ! . . . 
She's a Corker. 

" We'll be sorry to leave the little house, of course. 
It's a bit like Adam and Eve, vou know. Lord ! what 
a chap old Milton was ! 

" ' The world was all before them, where to choose 
Their place of rest, and Providence their guide.' 

It sounds, George. . . . Providence their guide ! . . . 
Well — thank goodness there's no imeedgit prospect of 
either Cain or Abel ! 

k ' After all, it won't be so bad up there. Not the 
scenery, perhaps, or the air we get here, but — Life ! 
We've got very comfortable little rooms, very comfort- 
able considering, and I shall rise. We're not done yet, 


we're not beaten ; don't think that, George. I shall 
pay twenty shillings in the pound before I've done — 
you mark my words, George, — twenty-five to you. . . . 
I got this situation within twenty-four hours — others 
offered. It's an important firm — one of the best in 
London. I looked to that. I might have got four or 
five shillings a week more — elsewhere. Quarters I could 
name. But I said to them plainly, wages to go on 
with, but opportunity's my game — development. We 
understood each other. 1 ' 

He threw out his chest, and the little round eyes 
behind his glasses rested valiantly on imaginary 

We would go on in silence for a space while he 
revised and restated that encounter. Then he would 
break out abruptly with some banal phrase. 

" The Battle of Life, George, my boy," he would 
cry, or " Ups and Downs ! " 

He ignored or waived the poor little attempts I 
made to ascertain my own position. " That's all right," 
he would say ; or, " Leave all that to me. FIl look after 
them." And he would drift away towards the philo- 
sophy and moral of the situation. What was I to do ? 

" Never put all your resources into one chance, 
George ; that's the lesson I draw from this. Have 
forces in reserve. It was a hundred to one, George, 
that I was right — a hundred to one. I worked it out 
afterwards. And here we are spiked on the off-chance. 
If I'd have only kept back a little, I'd have had it on 
U.P. next day, like a shot, and come out on the rise. 
There you are ! " 

His thoughts took a graver turn. 

" It's when you bump up against Chance like this, 
George, that you feel the need of religion. Your hard 



and fast scientific men — your Spencers and Huxleys — 
they don't understand that. I do. I've thought of it 
a lot lately — in bed and about. I was thinking of it 
this morning while I shaved. It's not irreverent for me 
to say it, I hope — but God comes in on the off-chance, 
George. See ? Don't you be too cocksure of anything, 
good or bad. That's what I make out of it. I could 
have sworn. Well, do you think I — particular as I am 
— would have touched those Union Pacifies with trust- 
money at all, if I hadn't thought it a thoroughly good 
thing — good without spot or blemish ? . . . And it 
was bad ! 

" It's a lesson to me. You start in to get a hundred 
per cent, and you come out with that. It means, in a 
way, a reproof for Pride. I've thought of that, George 
— in the Night Watches. 1 was thinking this morning 
when I was shaving, that that's where the good of it 
all comes in. At bottom I'm a mystic in these affairs. 
You calculate you're going to do this or that, but at 
bottom who knows at all what he's doing ? When you 
most think you're doing things, they're being done 
right over your head. You're being done — in a sense. 
Take a hundred-to-one chance, or one to a hundred — 
what does it matter? You're being Led." 

It's odd that" I heard this at the time with unutter- 
able contempt, and How that I recall it — well, I ask 
myself, what have I got better ? 

" I wish," said I, becoming for a moment outrageous, 
"you were being Led to give me some account of my 
money, uncle." 

"Not without a bit of paper to figure on, George, 
I can't. But you trust me about that, never fear. 
You trust me." 

And in the end I had to. 


I think the bankruptcy hit my aunt pretty hard. 
There was, so far as I can remember now, a complete 
cessation of all those cheerful outbreaks of elasticity — 
no more skylarking in the shop nor scampering about 
the house. But there was no fuss that I saw, and only 
little signs in her complexion of the fits of weeping 
that must have taken her. She didn't cry at the end, 
though to me her face with its strain of self-possession 
was more pathetic than any weeping. " Well," she 
said to me as she came through the shop to the cab, 
" Here's old orf, George ! Orf to Mome number two ! 
Good-bye ! " And she took me in her arms and kissed 
me and pressed me to her. Then she dived straight 
for the cab before I could answer her. 

My uncle followed, and he seemed to me a trifle too 
valiant and confident in his bearing for reality. He 
was unusually white in the face. He spoke to his 
successor at the counter. " Here we go ! " he said. 
" One down, the other up. You'll find it a quiet little 
business so long as you run it on quiet lines — a nice, 
quiet little business. There's nothing more ? No ? 
Well, if you want to know anything write to me. I'll 
always explain fully. Anything — business, place, or 
people. You'll find Pil. Antibil. a little overstocked, 
by-the-by. I found it soothed my mind the day before 
yesterday making 'em, and I made 'em all day. Thou- 
sands ! And where's George ? Ah ! there you are ! 
I'll write to you, George, fully, about all that affair. 
Fully ! " 

It became clear to me as if for the first time, that 
I was really parting from my aunt Susan. I went out 
on to the pavement and saw her head craned forward, 
her wide-open blue eyes and her little face intent on 
the shop that had combined for her all the charms of a 


big doll's house and a little home of her very own. 
" Good-bye ! " she said to it and to me. Our eyes met 
for a moment — perplexed. My uncle bustled out and 
gave a few totally unnecessary directions to the cabman 
and got in beside her. " All right ? " asked the driver. 
" Right," said I ; and he woke up the horse with a flick 
of his whip. My aunt's eyes surveyed me again. " Stick 
to your old science and things, George, and write and 
tell me when they make you a Professor,' 1 she said 

She stared at me for a second longer with eyes growing 
wider and brighter and a smile that had become fixed, 
glanced again at the bright little shop still saying 
" Ponderevo " with all the emphasis of its fascia, and 
then flopped back hastily out of sight of me into the 
recesses of the cab. Then it had gone from before me, 
and I beheld Mr. Snape the hairdresser inside his shop 
regarding its departure with a quiet satisfaction and 
exchanging smiles and significant headshakes with Mr. 

§ 4 

I was left, I say, as part of the lock, stock, and 
barrel, at Wimblehurst with my new master, a Mr. 
Mantell ; who plays no part in the progress of this story 
except in so far as he effaced my uncle's traces. So 
soon as the freshness of this new personality faded, I 
began to find Wimblehurst not only a dull but a 
lonely place, and to miss my aunt Susan immensely. 
The advertisements of the summer terms for Cough 
Linctus were removed ; the bottles of coloured water — 
red, green, and yellow — restored to their places ; the 


horse announcing veterinary medicine, which my uncle, 
sizzling all the while, had coloured in careful portraiture 
of a Goodwood favourite, rewhitened ; and I turned 
myself even more resolutely than before to Latin (until 
the passing of my preliminary examination enabled me 
to drop that), and then to mathematics and science. 

There were classes in Electricity and Magnetism at 
the Grammar School. I took a little "elementary" 
prize in that in my first year and a medal in my third ; 
and in Chemistry and Human Physiology and Sound, 
Light and Heat, I did well. There was also a lighter, 
more discursive subject called Physiography, in which one 
ranged among the sciences and encountered Geology as a 
process of evolution from Eozoon to Eastry House, and 
Astronomy as a record of celestial movements of the most 
austere and invariable integrity. I learnt out of badly- 
written, condensed little text-books, and with the mini- 
mum of experiment, but still I learnt. Only thirty years 
ago it was, and I remember I learnt of the electric light 
as an expensive, impracticable toy, the telephone as a 
curiosity, electric traction as a practical absurdity. There 
was no argon, no radium, no phagocytes — at least to 
my knowledge, and aluminium was a dear infrequent 
metal. The fastest ships in the world went then at 
nineteen knots, and no one but a lunatic here and 
there ever thought it possible that men might fly. 

Many things have happened since then, but the last 
glance I had of Wimblehurst two years ago remarked 
no change whatever in its pleasant tranquillity. They 
had not even built any fresh houses — at least not 
actually in the town, though about the station there 
had been some building. But it was a good place to 
do work in, for all its quiescence. I was soon beyond 
the small requirements of the Pharmaceutical Society's 


examination, and as they do not permit candidates to 
sit for that until one and twenty, I was presently filling 
up my time and preventing my studies becoming too 
desultory by making an attack upon the London 
University degree of Bachelor of Science, which im- 
pressed me then as a very splendid but almost impossible 
achievement. The degree in mathematics and chemistry 
appealed to me as particularly congenial — albeit giddily 
inaccessible. I set to work. I had presently to arrange 
a holiday and go to London to matriculate, and so it 
was I came upon my aunt and uncle again. In many 
ways that visit marked an epoch. It was my first im- 
pression of London at all. I was then nineteen, and by 
a conspiracy of chances my nearest approach to that 
human wilderness had been my brief visit to Chatham. 
Chatham too had been my largest town. So that I 
got London at last with an exceptional freshness of 
effect, as the sudden revelation of a whole unsuspected 
other side to life. 

I came to it on a dull and smoky day by the South- 
Eastern Railway, and our train was half an hour late, 
stopping and going on and stopping again. I marked 
beyond Chislehurst the growing multitude of villas, and 
so came stage by stage through multiplying houses and 
diminishing interspaces of market garden and dingy 
grass to regions of interlacing railway lines, big factories, 
gasometers and wide reeking swamps of dingy little 
homes, more of them and more and more. The number 
of these and their dinginess and poverty increased, and 
here rose a great public house and here a Board School 
and here a gaunt factory ; and away to the east there 
loomed for a time a queer incongruous forest of masts 
and spars. The congestion of houses intensified and 
piled up presently into tenements ; I marvelled more 


and more at this boundless world of dingy people ; 
whiffs of industrial smell, of leather, of brewing, drifted 
into the carriage, the sky darkened, I rumbled thunder- 
ously over bridges, van-crowded streets, peered down on 
and crossed the Thames with an abrupt eclat of sound. 
I got an effect of tall warehouses, of grey water, barge 
crowded, of broad banks of indescribable mud, and 
then I was in Cannon Street Station — a monstrous 
dirty cavern with trains packed across its vast floor 
and more porters standing along the platform than I 
had ever seen in my life before. I alighted with mv 
portmanteau and struggled along, realizing for the 
first time just how small and weak I could still upon 
occasion feel. In this world, I felt, an Honours medal 
in Electricity and Magnetism counted for nothing 
at all. 

Afterwards I drove in a cab down a canon of 
rushing street between high warehouses, and peeped 
up astonished at the blackened greys of Saint Paul's. 
The traffic of Cheapside — it was mostly in horse omi- 
buses in those days — seemed stupendous, its roar was 
stupendous ; I wondered where the money came from 
to employ so many cabs, what industry could support 
the endless jostling stream of silk-hatted, frock-coated, 
hurrying men. Down a turning I found the Tem- 
perance Hotel Mr. Mantell had recommended to me. 
The porter in a green uniform who took over my 
portmanteau, seemed, I thought, to despise me a good 


§ 5 

Matriculation kept me for four full days, and then 
came an afternoon to spare, and I sought out Totten- 
ham Court Road through a perplexing network of 
various and crowded streets. But this London was 
vast ! it was endless ! it seemed the whole world had 
changed into packed frontages and hoardings and street 
spaces. I got there at last and made inquiries, and I 
found my uncle behind the counter of the pharmacy 
he managed, an establishment that did not impress me 
as doing a particularly high-class trade. " Lord ! " he 
said at the sight of me, " I was wanting something to 
happen ! " 

He greeted me warmly. I had grown taller, and he 
I thought had grown shorter and smaller and rounder, 
but otherwise he was unchanged. He struck me as 
being rather shabby, and the silk hat he produced and 
put on, when, after mysterious negotiations in the back 
premises he achieved his freedom to accompany me, 
was past its first youth ; but he was as buoyant and 
confident as ever. 

" Come to ask me about all that ? " he cried. " I've 
never written yet." 

" Oh ! among other things, 11 said I with a sudden 
regrettable politeness, and waived the topic of his 
trusteeship to ask after my aunt Susan. 

"We'll have her out of it, 11 he said suddenly; 
" we'll go somewhere. We don't get you in London 
every day." 

" It's my first visit," I said ; " I've never seen London 
before ;" and that made him ask me what I thought of 
it, and the rest of the talk was London, London, to 


the exclusion of all smaller topics. He took me up the 
Hampstead Road almost to the Cobden statue, plunged 
into some back streets to the left, and came at last to 
a blistered front door that responded to his latch-key, 
one of a long series of blistered front doors with fan- 
lights and apartment cards above. We found ourselves 
in a drab-coloured passage that was not only narrow 
and dirty but desolatingly empty, and then he opened 
a door and revealed my aunt sitting at the window 
with a little sewing-machine on a bamboo occasional 
table before her, and " work " — a plum-coloured walking 
dress, I judged, at its most analytical stage — scattered 
over the rest of the apartment. 

At the first glance I judged my aunt was plumper 
than she had been, but her complexion was just as fresh 
and her China blue eye as bright as in the old days. 

" London," she said, didn't "get blacks" on her. 

She still " cheeked " my uncle, I was pleased to find. 
" What are you old Poking in for at this time, — 
Gubbitt?"" she said when he appeared, and she still 
looked with a practised eye for the facetious side of 
things. When she saw me behind him, she gave a 
little cry and stood up radiant. Then she became 

I was surprised at my own emotion in seeing her. 
She held me at arm's length for a moment, a hand on 
each shoulder, and looked at me with a sort of glad 
scrutiny. She seemed to hesitate, and then pecked 
a little kiss off my cheek. 

" You're a man, George," she said, as she released 
me, and continued to look at me for a while. 

Their menage was one of a very common type in 
London. They occupied what is called the dining-room 
floor of a small house, and they had the use of a little 


inconvenient kitchen in the basement that had once been 
a scullery. The two rooms, bedroom behind and living- 
room in front, were separated by folding doors that 
were never now thrown back, and indeed, in the presence 
of a visitor, not used at all. There was of course no 
bathroom or anything of that sort available, and there 
was no water supply except to the kitchen below. My 
aunt did all the domestic work, though she could have 
afforded to pay for help if the build of the place had 
not rendered that inconvenient to the pitch of impossi- 
bility. There was no sort of help available except that 
of indoor servants, for whom she had no accommodation. 
The furniture was their own ; it was partly second-hand, 
but on the whole it seemed cheerful to my eye, and my 
aunt's bias for cheap, gay-figured muslin had found 
ample scope. In many ways I should think it must 
have been an extremely inconvenient and cramped sort 
of home, but at the time I took it, as I was taking 
everything, as being there and in the nature of things. 
I did not see the oddness of solvent decent people 
living in a habitation so clearly neither designed nor 
adapted for their needs, so wasteful of labour and so 
devoid of beauty as this was, and it is only now as I 
describe this that I find myself thinking of the essential 
absurdity of an intelligent community living in such 
makeshift homes. It strikes me now as the next thing 
to wearing second-hand clothes. 

You see it was a natural growth, part of that 
system to which Bladesover, I hold, is the key. There 
are wide regions of London, miles of streets of houses, 
that appear to have been originally designed for 
prosperous middle-class homes of the early Victorian 
type. There must have been a perfect fury of such 
building in the thirties, forties, and fifties. Street after 


street must have been rushed into being, Campden 
Town way, Pentonville way, Brompton way, West 
Kensington way, in the Victoria region and all over 
the minor suburbs of the south side. I am doubtful if 
many of these houses had any long use as the residences 
of single families, if from the very first almost their 
tenants did not makeshift and take lodgers and sublet. 
They were built with basements, in which their servants 
worked arjd lived — servants of a more submissive and 
troglodytic generation who did not mind stairs — the 
dining-room (with folding doors) was a little above the 
ground-level, and in that the wholesome boiled and 
roast with damp boiled potatoes and then pie to 
follow, was consumed, and the numerous family read 
and worked in the evening, and above was the drawing- 
room (also with folding doors), where the infrequent 
callers were received. That was the vision at which 
those industrious builders aimed. Even while these 
houses were being run up, the threads upon the loom 
of fate were shaping to abolish altogether the type of 
household that would have fitted them. Means of 
transit were developing to carry the moderately pros- 
perous middle-class families out of London, education 
and factory employment were whittling away at the 
supply of rough, hardworking, obedient girls who 
would stand the subterranean drudgery of these places, 
new classes of hard-up middle-class people such as my 
uncle, employees of various types, were coming into 
existence, for whom no homes were provided. None of 
these classes have ideas of what they ought to be, or fit 
in any legitimate way into the Bladesover theory that 
dominates our minds. It was nobody's concern to see 
them housed under civilized conditions, and the beau- 
tiful laws of supply and demand had free play. They 


had to squeeze in. The landlords came out financially 
intact from their blundering enterprise. More and 
more these houses fell into the hands of married artisans 
or struggling widows or old servants with savings, who 
became responsible for the quarterly rent and tried to 
sweat a living by sub-letting furnished or unfurnished 

I remember now that a poor grey-haired old woman, 
who had an air of having been roused from a nap in the 
dust-bin, came out into the area and looked up at us 
as we three went out from the front door to " see 
London" under my uncled direction. She was the sub- 
letting occupier, she squeezed out a precarious living 
by taking the house whole and sub-letting it in detail, 
and she made her food and got the shelter of an attic 
above and a basement below by the transaction. And 
if she didn't chance to " let " steadily, out she went to 
pauperdom and some other poor sordid old adventurer 
tried in her place. . . . 

It is a foolish community that can house whole 
classes, useful and helpful, honest and loyal classes, in 
such squalidly unsuitable dwellings. It is by no means 
the social economy it seems, to use up old women's 
savings and inexperience in order to meet the landlord's 
demands. But any one who doubts this thing is going 
on right up to to-day need only spend an afternoon in 
hunting for lodgings in any of the regions of London 
I have named. 

But where has my story got to ? My uncle, I say, 
decided I must be shown London, and out we three 
went as soon as my aunt had got her hat on, to catch 
all that was left of the day. 



It pleased my uncle extremely to find I had never 
seen London before. He took possession of the 
metropolis forthwith. "London, George,' 1 '' he said, 
" takes a lot of understanding. It's a great place. 
Immense. The richest town in the world, the biggest 
port, the greatest manufacturing town, the Imperial 
city — the centre of civilization, the heart of the world ! 
See those sandwich men down there ! That third one's 
hat ! Fair treat ! You don't see poverty like that in 
Wimblehurst, George ! And many of them high 
Oxford honour men too. Brought down by drink ! 
Ifs a wonderful place, George — a whirlpool, a mael- 
strom ! whirls you up and whirls you down. 11 

I have a very confused memory of that afternoon's 
inspection of London. My uncle took us to and fro 
showing us over his London, talking erratically, follow- 
ing a route of his own. Sometimes we were walking, 
sometimes we were on the tops of great staggering 
horse omnibuses in a heaving jumble of traffic, and at 
one point we had tea in an Aerated Bread Shop. But 
I remember very distinctly how we passed down Park 
Lane under an overcast sky, and how my uncle pointed 
out the house of this child of good fortune and that 
j with succulent appreciation. 

I remember, too, that as he talked I would find my 
aunt watching my face as if to check the soundness of 
his talk by my expression. 

"Been in love yet, George? 11 she asked suddenly, 
over a bun in the tea-shop. 

" Too busy, aunt, 11 I told her. 

She bit her bun extensively, and gesticulated 


with the remnant to indicate that she had more 
to say. 

" How are you going to make your fortune ? " she 
said so soon as she could speak again. " You haven't 
told us that." 

"'Lectricity," said my uncle, taking breath after a 
deep draught of tea. 

" If I make it at all, 1- ' I said. " For my part I think 
I shall be satisfied with something less than a fortune. 1 ' 

" We're going to make ours — suddenly," she said. 
"So lie old says." She jerked her head at my uncle. 
" He won't tell me when — so I can't get anything 
ready. But it's coming. Going to ride in our carnage 
and have a garden. Garden — like a bishop's. 11 

She finished her bun and twiddled crumbs from her 
fingers. " I shall be glad of the garden," she said. 
" It's going to be a real big one with rosaries and 
things. Fountains in it. Pampas grass. Hothouses." 

" You'll get it all right," said my uncle, who had 
reddened a little. 

" Grey horses in the carriage, George," she said. 
" It's nice to think about when one's dull. And 
dinners in restaurants often and often. And theatres 
— in the stalls. And money and money and money." 

"You may joke," said my uncle, and hummed for 
a moment. 

"Just as though an old Porpoise like him would 
ever make money," she said, turning her eyes upon his 
profile with a sudden lapse to affection. "He'll just 
porpoise about." 

"I'll do something," said my uncle, "you bet! 
Zzzz ! " and rapped with a shilling on the marble 

" When you do you'll have to buy me a new pair 


of gloves,'" she said, "anyhow. That finger's past 
mending. Look ! you Cabbage — you."" And she held 
the split under his nose, and pulled a face of comical 

My uncle smiled at these sallies at the time, but 
afterwards, when I went back with him to the Pharmacy 
— the low-class business grew brisker in the evening 
and they kept open late — he reverted to it in a low 
expository tone. " Your aunt's a bit impatient, George. 
She gets at me. It's only natural. ... A woman 
doesn't understand how long it takes to build up a 
position. No. ... In certain directions now — I am — 
quietly — building up a position. Now here. ... I 
get this room. I have my three assistants. Zzzz. It's 
a position that, judged by the criterion of immeedjit 
income, isn't perhaps so good as I deserve, but strategi- 
cally — yes. It's what I want. I make my plans. I 
rally my attack." 

"What plans," I said, "are you making?" 

" Well, George, there's one thing you can rely upon. 
I'm doing nothing in a hurry. I turn over this idea 

and that, and I don't talk — indiscreetly. There's 

No ! I don't think I can tell you that. And yet, why 
not t" 

He got up and closed the door into the shop. " Tve 
told no one," he remarked, as he sat down again. " I 
owe you something." 

His face flushed slightly, he leant forward over the 
little table towards me. 

" Listen ! " he said. 

I listened. 

" Tono-Bungay," said my uncle very slowly and 

I thought he was asking me to hear some remote, 


strange noise. " I don't hear anything, " I said reluc- 
tantly to his expectant face. 

He smiled undefeated. " Try again, 11 he said, and 
repeated, " Tono-Bungay. 11 

" Oh, that ! " I said. 

" Eh ? " said he. 

" But what is it ? " 

"Ah!" said my uncle, rejoicing and expanding. 
" What is it ? That's what you got to ask ? What 
won't it be? 11 He dug me violently in what he sup- 
posed to be my ribs. " George, 11 he cried — " George, 
watch this place ! There's more to follow. 11 

And that was all I could get from him. 

That, I believe, was the very first time that the 
words Tono-Bungay were heard on earth — unless my 
uncle indulged in monologues in his chamber — a highly 
probable thing. Its utterance certainly did not seem 
to me at the time to mark any sort of epoch, and had 
I been told this word was the Open Sesame to whatever 
pride and pleasure the grimy front of London hid from 
us that evening, I should have laughed aloud. 

" Coming now to business, 11 I said after a pause, 
and with a chill sense of effort ; and I opened the 
question of his trust. 

My uncle sighed, and leant back in his chair. " I 
wish I could make all this business as clear to you as 

it is to me, 11 he said. " However Go on ! Say 

what you have to say. 11 


After I left my uncle that evening I gave way to 
a feeling of profound depression. My uncle and aunt 


seemed to me to be leading — I have already used the word 
too often but I must use it again — dingy lives. They 
seemed to be adrift in a limitless crowd of dingy people, 
wearing shabby clothes, living uncomfortably in shabby 
second-hand houses, going to and fro on pavements 
that had always a thin veneer of greasy, slippery mud, 
under grey skies that showed no gleam of hope of any- 
thing for them but dinginess until they died. It seemed 
absolutely clear to me that my mother's little savings 
had been swallowed up and that my own prospect was 
all too certainly to drop into and be swallowed up 
sooner or later by this dingy London ocean. The 
London that was to be an adventurous escape from 
the slumber of Wimblehurst, had vanished from my 
dreams. I saw my uncle pointing to the houses in 
Fark Lane and showing a frayed shirt-cuff as he did 
so. I heard my aunt ; " I'm to ride in my carriage 
then. So he old says." 

My feelings towards my uucle were extraordinarily 
mixed. I was intensely sorry not only for my aunt 
Susan but for him — for it seemed indisputable that as 
they were living then so they must go on — and at the 
same time I was angry with the garrulous vanity and 
silliness that had clipped all my chance of independent 
study, and imprisoned her in those grey apartments. 
When I got back to Wimblehurst I allowed myself 
to write him a boyishly sarcastic and sincerely bitter 
letter. He never replied. Then, believing it to be 
the only way of escape for me, I set myself far more 
grimly and resolutely to my studies than I had ever 
done before. After a time I wrote to him in more 
moderate terms, and he answered me evasively. And 
then I tried to dismiss him from my mind and went 
on working. 


Yes, that first raid upon London under the moist 
and chilly depression of January had an immense effect 
upon me. It was for me an epoch-making disappoint- 
ment. I had thought of London as a large, free, wel- 
coming, adventurous place, and I saw it slovenly and 
harsh and irresponsive. 

I did not realize at all what human things might be 
found behind those grey frontages, what weakness that 
whole forbidding facade might presently confess. It is 
the constant error of youth to over-estimate the Will 
in things. I did not see that the dirt, the discourage- 
ment, the discomfort of London could be due simply 
to the fact that London was a witless old giantess of 
a town, too slack and stupid to keep herself clean and 
maintain a brave face to the world. No ! I suffered 
from the sort of illusion that burnt witches in the 
seventeenth century. I endued her grubby disorder 
with a sinister and magnificent quality of intention. 

And my uncle's gestures and promises filled me with 
doubt and a sort of fear for him. He seemed to me 
a lost little creature, too silly to be silent, in a vast 
implacable condemnation. I was full of pity and a sort 
of tenderness for my aunt Susan, who was doomed to 
follow his erratic fortunes mocked by his grandiloquent 
promises. . . . 

I was to learn better. But I worked with the 
terror of the grim underside of London in my soul 
during all my last year at Wimblehurst. 




how i became a london student, and 
went Astray 


I came to live in London, as I shall tell you, when I 
was nearly twenty-two. Wimblehurst dwindles in per- 
spective, is now in this book a little place far off, 
Bladesover no more than a small pinkish speck of 
frontage among the distant Kentish hills ; the scene 
broadens out, becomes multitudinous and limitless, full 
of the sense of vast irrelevant movement. I do not 
remember my second coming to London as I do my 
first, nor my early impressions, save that an October 
memory of softened amber sunshine stands out, amber 
sunshine falling on grey house fronts, I know not where. 
That, and a sense of a large tranquillity. . . . 

I could fill a book, I think, with a more or less 
imaginary account of how I came to apprehend London, 
how first in one aspect and then another it grew in my 
mind. Each day my accumulating impressions were 
added to and qualified and brought into relationship 
with new ones, they fused inseparably with others that 
were purely personal and accidental. I find myself with 
a certain comprehensive perception of London, complex 
indeed, incurably indistinct in places and yet in some 



way a whole that began with my first visit and is still 
being mellowed and enriched. 

London ! 

At first, no doubt, it was a chaos of streets and 
people and buildings and reasonless going to and fro. 
I do not remember that I ever struggled very steadily 
to understand it, or explored it with any but a personal 
and adventurous intention. Yet in time there has 
grown up in me a kind of theory of London ; I do 
think I see lines of an ordered structure out of which 
it has grown, detected a process that is something 
more than a confusion of casual accidents, though 
indeed it may be no more than a process of disease. 

I said at the outset of my first book that I find in 
Bladesover the clue to all England. Well, I certainly 
imagine it is the clue to the structure of London. 
There have been no revolutions, no deliberate restate- 
ments or abandonments of opinion in England since 
the days of the fine gentry, since 1688 or thereabouts, 
the days when Bladesover was built; there have been 
changes, dissolving forces, replacing forces, if you will ; 
but then it was that the broad lines of the English 
system set firmly. And as I have gone to and fro in 
London, in certain regions constantly the thought has 
recurred, this is Bladesover House, this answers to 
Bladesover House. The fine gentry may have gone; 
they have indeed largely gone, I think ; rich merchants 
may have replaced them, financial adventurers or what 
not. That does not matter ; the shape is still Bladesover. 

I am most reminded of Bladesover and Eastry by 
all those regions round about the West End parks, for 
example, estate parks, each more or less in relation to 
a palace or group of great houses. The roads and 
back ways of May fair and all about St. James's again, 


albeit perhaps of a later growth in point of time, were 
of the very spirit and architectural texture of the 
Bladesover passages and yards ; they had the same 
smells, the space, the large cleanness, and always going 
to and fro there one met unmistakable Olympians, and 
even more unmistakable valets, butlers, footmen in 
mufti. There were moments when I seemed to glimpse 
down areas the white panelling, the very chintz of my 
mother's room again. 

I could trace out now on a map what I would call 
the Great-House region ; passing south-westward into 
Belgravia, becoming diffused and sporadic westward, 
finding its last systematic outbreak round and about 
Regent's Park. The Duke of Devonshire's place in 
Piccadilly, in all its insolent ugliness, pleases me 
particularly, it is the quintessence of the thing, 
Apsley House is all in the manner of my theory, Park 
Lane has its quite typical mansions, and they ran 
along the border of the Green Park and St. James's. 
And I struck out a truth one day in Cromwell Road 
quite suddenly, as I looked over the Natural History 
Museum ; " By Jove ! " said I, " but this is the little 
assemblage of cases of stuffed birds and animals upon 
the Bladesover staircase grown enormous, and yonder 
as the corresponding thing to the Bladesover curios 
and porcelain is the Art Museum, and there in the 
little observatories in Exhibition Road is old Sir 
Cuthbert's Gregorian telescope that I hunted out in the 
storeroom and put together." And diving into the 
Art Museum under this inspiration, I came to a little 
reading-room and found, as I had inferred, old brown 
books ! 

It was really a good piece of social comparative 
anatomy I did that day ; all these museums and 


libraries that are dotted over London between Picca- 
dilly and West Kensington, and indeed the museum 
and library movement throughout the world, sprang 
from the elegant leisure of the gentlemen of taste. 
Theirs were the first libraries, the first houses of cul- 
ture ; by my rat-like raids into the Bladesover saloon 
I became, as it were, the last dwindled representative 
of such a man of letters as Swift. But now these 
things have escaped out of the Great House altogether, 
and taken on a strange independent life of their own. 

It is this idea of escaping parts from the seventeenth 
century system of Bladesover, of proliferating and over- 
growing elements from the Estates, that to this day 
seems to me the best explanation, not simply of London, 
but of all England. England is a country of great 
Renascence landed gentlefolk who have been un- 
consciously outgrown and overgrown. The proper 
shops for Bladesover custom were still to be found in 
Regent Street and Bond Street in my early London 
days — in those days they had been but lightly touched 
by the American's profaning hand — and in Piccadilly. 
I found the doctor's house of the country village or 
country town up and down Harley Street, multiplied 
but not otherwise different, and the family solicitor 
(by the hundred) further eastward in the abandoned 
houses of a previous generation of gentlepeople, and 
down in Westminster, behind Palladian fronts, the 
public offices sheltered in large Bladesoverish rooms 
and looked out on St. James's Park. The Parliament 
Houses of lords and gentlemen, the parliament house 
that was horrified when merchants and brewers came 
thrusting into it a hundred years ago, stood out upon 
its terrace gathering the whole system together into a 


And the more I have paralleled these things with 
my Bladesover-Eastry model, the more evident it has 
become to me that the balance is not the same, and 
the more evident is the presence of great new forces, 
blind forces of invasion, of growth. The railway 
termini on the north side of London have been kept as 
remote as Eastry had kept the railway-station from 
Wimblehurst, they stop on the very outskirts of the 
estates, but from the south, the South Eastern railway 
had butted its great stupid rusty iron head of Charing 
Cross station — that great head that came smashing 
down in 1905 — clean across the river, between Somerset 
House and "Whitehall. The south side had no protect- 
ing estates. Factory chimneys smoke right over against 
Westminster with an air of carelessly not having per- 
mission, and the whole effect of industrial London and 
of all London cast of Temple Bar and of the huge 
dingy immensity of London port, is to me of something 
disproportionately large, something morbidly expanded, 
without plan or intention, dark and sinister toward the 
clean clear social assurance of the West End. And 
south of this central London, south-east, south-west, 
far west, north-west, all round the northern hills, are 
similar disproportionate growths, endless streets of un- 
distinguished houses, undistinguished industries, shabby 
families, second-rate shops, inexplicable people who in 
a once fashionable phrase do not "exist." All these 
aspects have suggested to my mind at times, do suggest 
to this day, the unorganized, abundant substance of 
some tumourous growth-process, a process which indeed 
bursts all the outlines of the affected carcass and pro- 
trudes such masses as ignoble comfortable Croydon, as 
tragic impoverished West Ham. To this day I ask 
myself will those masses ever become structural, will 


they indeed shape into anything new whatever, or is that 
cancerous image their true and ultimate diagnosis ? . . . 

Moreover, together with this hypertrophy there is 
an immigration of elements that have never understood 
and never will understand the great tradition, wedges 
of foreign settlement embedded in the heart of this 
yeasty English expansion. One day I remember 
wandering eastward out of pure curiosity — it must 
have been in my early student days — and discovering 
a shabbily bright foreign quarter, shops displaying 
Hebrew placards and weird unfamiliar commodities, 
and a concourse of bright-eyed, eagle-nosed people 
talking some incomprehensible gibberish between the 
shops and the barrows. And soon I became quite 
familiar with the devious, vicious, dirtily-pleasant exoti- 
cism of Soho. I found those crowded streets a vast 
relief from the dull grey exterior of Brompton where 
I lodged and lived my daily life. In Soho, indeed, I 
got my first inkling of the factor of replacement that 
is so important in both the English and the American 

Even in the West End, in Mayfair and the squares 
about Pall Mall, Ewart was presently to remind me 
the face of the old aristocratic dignity was fairer than 
its substance, here were actors and actresses, here 
moneylenders and Jews, here bold financial adventurers, 
and I thought of my uncle"s frayed cuff as he pointed 
out this house in Park Lane and that. That was 
so and so^s who made a corner in borax, and that 
palace belonged to that hero among modern adven- 
turers, Barmentrude, who used to be an I.D.B., — an 
illicit diamond buyer that is to say. A city of Blades- 
overs, the capital of a kingdom of Bladesovers, all much 
shaken and many altogether in decay, parasitically 


occupied, insidiously replaced by alien, unsympathetic 
and irresponsible elements ; — and withal ruling an ad- 
ventitious and miscellaneous empire of a quarter of 
this daedal earth. Complex laws, intricate social ne- 
cessities, disturbing insatiable suggestions, followed from 
this. Such was the world into which I had come, into 
which I had in some way to thrust myself and fit my 
problem, my temptations, my efforts, my patriotic 
instinct, all my moral instincts, my physical appetites, 
my dreams and my vanity. 

London ! I came up to it, young and without 
advisers, rather priggish, rather dangerously open- 
minded and very open-eyed, and with something — it 
is I think the common gift of imaginative youth, and 
I claim it unblushingly — fine in me, finer than the 
world and seeking fine responses. I did not want 
simply to live or simply to live happily or well, I 
wanted to serve and do and make — with some nobility. 
It was in me. It is in half the youth of the world. 


I had come to London as a scholar. I had taken 
the Vincent Bradley scholarship of the Pharmaceutical 
Society, but I threw this up when I found that my 
work of the Science and Art Department in mathe- 
matics, physics and chemistry had given me one of 
the minor Technical Board Scholarships at the Con- 
solidated Technical Schools at South Kensington. 
This latter was in mechanics and metallurgy ; and I 
hesitated between the two. The Vincent Bradley gave 
me £10 a year and quite the best start-off a pharma- 
ceutical chemist could have ; the South Kensington 


thing was worth about twenty-two shillings a week, 
and the prospects it opened were vague. But it meant 
far more scientific work than the former, and I was 
still under the impulse of that great intellectual appe- 
tite that is part of the adolescence of men of my type. 
Moreover it seemed to lead towards engineering, in 
which I imagined — I imagine to this day — my par- 
ticular use is to be found. I took its greater un- 
certainty as a fair risk. I came up very keen, not 
doubting that the really hard and steady industry that 
had carried me through Wimblehurst would go on still 
in the new surroundings. 

Only from the very first it didn't. . . . 

When I look back now at my Wimblehurst days, 
I still find myself surprised at the amount of steady 
grinding study, of strenuous self-discipline that I main- 
tained throughout my apprenticeship. In many ways 
I think that time was the most honourable period in 
my life. I wish I could say with a certain mind that 
my motives in working so well were large and honour- 
able too. To a certain extent they were so ; there 
was a fine sincere curiosity, a desire for the strength 
and power of scientific knowledge and a passion for 
intellectual exercise ; but I do not think those forces 
alone would have kept me at it so grimly and closely 
if Wimblehurst had not been so dull, so limited and 
so observant. Directly I came into the London atmo- 
sphere, tasting freedom, tasting irresponsibility and the 
pull of new forces altogether, my discipline fell from 
me like a garment. Wimblehurst to a youngster in 
my position offered no temptations worth counting, no 
interests to conflict with study, no vices — such vices as 
it offered were coarsely stripped of any imaginative 
glamour — dull drunkenness, clumsy leering shameful lust, 


no social intercourse even to waste one's time, and on the 
other hand it would minister greatly to the self-esteem 
of a conspicuously industrious student. One was marked 
as " clever," one played up to the part, and one's little 
accomplishment stood out finely in one's private reckon- 
ing against the sunlit small ignorance of that agreeable 
place. One went with an intent rush across the market 
square, one took one's exercise with as dramatic a sense 
of an ordered day as an Oxford don, one burnt the 
midnight oil quite consciously at the rare, respectful, 
benighted passer-by. And one stood out finely in the 
local paper with one's unapproachable yearly harvest 
of certificates. Thus I was not only a genuinely keen 
student, but also a little of a prig and poseur in those 
days — and the latter kept the former at it, as London 
made clear. Moreover, Wimblehurst had given me no 
outlet in any other direction. 

But I did not realize all this when I came to London, 
did not perceive how the change of atmosphere began 
at once to warp and distribute my energies. In the 
first place I became invisible. If I idled for a day, no 
one except my fellow-students (who evidently had no 
awe for me) remarked it. No one saw my midnight 
taper; no one pointed me out as I crossed the street 
as an astonishing intellectual phenomenon. In the next 
place I became inconsiderable. In Wimblehurst I felt 
I stood for Science ; nobody there seemed to have so 
much as I and to have it so fully and completely. In 
London I walked ignorant in an immensity, and it was 
clear that among my fellow-students from the midlands 
and the north I was ill-equipped and under-trained. 
With the utmost exertion I should only take a secon- 
dary position among them. And finally, in the third 
place, I was distracted by voluminous new interests ; 


London took hold of me, and Science which had been 
the universe, shrank back to the dimensions of tiresome 
little formulae compacted in a book. I came to London 
in late September, and it was a very different London 
from that great greyly-overcast, smoke-stained house- 
wilderness of my first impressions. I reached it by 
Victoria and not by Cannon Street, and its centre was 
now in Exhibition Road. It shone, pale amber, blue- 
grey and tenderly spacious and fine under clear au- 
tumnal skies, a London of hugely handsome buildings 
and vistas and distances, a London of gardens and 
labyrinthine tall museums, of old trees and remote 
palaces and artificial waters. I lodged near by in West 
Brompton at a house in a little square. 

So London faced me the second time, making me 
forget altogether for a while the grey, drizzling city 
visage that had first looked upon me. I settled down 
and went to and fro to my lectures and laboratory ; in 
the beginning I worked hard, and only slowly did the 
curiosity that presently possessed me to know more of 
this huge urban province arise, the desire to find some- 
thing beyond mechanism that I could serve, some use 
other than learning. With this was a growing sense 
of loneliness, a desire for adventure and intercourse. 
I found myself in the evenings poring over a map of 
London I had bought, instead of copying out lecture 
notes — and on Sundays I made explorations, taking 
omnibus rides east and west and north and south, and 
so enlarging and broadening the sense of great swarm- 
ing hinterlands of humanity with whom I had no 
dealings, of whom I knew nothing. . . . 

The whole illimitable place teemed with suggestions 
of indefinite and sometimes outrageous possibility, of 
hidden but magnificent meanings. 


It wasn't simply that I received a vast impression 
of space and multitude and opportunity ; intimate 
things also were suddenly dragged from neglected, 
veiled and darkened corners into an acute vividness of 
perception. Close at hand in the big art museum I 
came for the first time upon the beauty of nudity, 
which I had hitherto held to be a shameful secret, 
flaunted and gloried in ; I was made aware of beauty 
as not only permissible but desirable and frequent, 
and of a thousand hitherto unsuspected rich aspects 
of life. One night in a real rapture, I walked 
round the upper gallery of the Albert Hall and 
listened for the first time to great music, I believe 
now that it was a rendering of Beethoven's Ninth 
Symphony. . . . 

My apprehension of spaces and places was reinforced 
by a quickened apprehension of persons. A constant 
stream of people passed by me, eyes met and challenged 
mine and passed — more and more I wanted them to 
stay — if I went eastward towards Piccadilly, women 
who seemed then to my boyish inexperience softly 
splendid and alluring, murmured to me as they passed. 
Extraordinarily life unveiled. The very hoardings 
clamoured strangely at one's senses and curiosities. 
One bought pamphlets and papers full of strange and 
daring ideas transcending one's boldest ; in the parks 
one heard men discussing the very existence of God, 
denying the rights of property, debating a hundred 
things that one dared not think about in Wimblehurst. 
And after the ordinary overcast day, after dull morn- 
ings, came twilight, and London lit up and became a 
thing of white and yellow and red jewels of light and 
wonderful floods of golden illumination and stupendous 
and unfathomable shadows — and there were no longer 


any mean or shabby people — but a great mysterious 
movement of unaccountable beings. . . . 

Always I was coming on the queerest new aspects. 
Late one Saturday night I found myself one of a great 
slow-moving crowd between the blazing shops and the 
flaring barrows in the Harrow Road, I got into con- 
versation with two bold-eyed girls, bought them boxes 
of chocolate, made the acquaintance of father and 
mother and various younger brothers and sisters, sat 
in a public house hilariously with them all, standing 
and being stood drinks, and left them in the small 
hours at the door of " home," never to see them again. 
And once I was accosted on the outskirts of a Salvation 
Army meeting in one of the parks by a silk-hatted 
young man of eager and serious discourse, who argued 
against scepticism with me, invited me home to tea 
into a clean and cheerful family of brothers and sisters 
and friends, and there I spent the evening singing 
hymns to the harmonium (which reminded me of half- 
forgotten Chatham) and wishing all the sisters were not 
so obviously engaged. . . . 

Then on the remote hill of this boundless city-world, 
I found Ewart. 

§ 3 

How well I remember the first morning, a bright 
Sunday morning in early October, when I raided in 
upon Ewart ! I found my old schoolfellow in bed in 
a room over an oil-shop in a back street at the foot 
of Highgate Hill. His landlady, a pleasant, dirty 
young woman with soft brown eyes, brought down his 
message for me to come up ; and up I went. The room 


presented itself as ample and interesting in detail and 
shabby with a quite commendable shabbiness. I had 
an impression of brown walls — they were papered with 
brown paper — of a long shelf along one side of the 
room with dusty plaster casts and a small cheap lay 
figure of a horse, of a table and something of grey wax 
partially covered with a cloth, and of scattered draw- 
ings. There was a gas stove in one corner and some 
enamelled ware that had been used for overnight 
cooking. The oilcloth on the floor was streaked with 
a peculiar white dust. Ewart himself was not in the 
first instance visible, but only a fourfold canvas screen 
at the end of the room from which shouts proceeded of 
" Come on ! " then his wiry black hair, very much 
rumpled, and a staring red-brown eye and his stump of 
a nose came round the edge of this at a height of about 
three feet from the ground. " Ifs old Pond ere vo ! " he 
said, "the Early Bird! And he's caught the worm ! By 
Jove, but ifs cold this morning ! Come round here 
and sit on the bed J" 11 

I walked round, wrung his hand, and we surveyed 
one another. 

He was lying on a small wooden fold-up bed, the 
scanty covering of which was supplemented by an over- 
coat and an elderly but still cheerful pair of check 
trousers, and he was wearing pyjamas of a virulent 
pink and green. His neck seemed longer and more 
stringy than it had been even in our schooldays, and 
his upper lip had a wiry black moustache. The rest 
of his ruddy, knobby countenance, his erratic hair and 
his general hairy leanness had not even — to my per- 
ceptions — grown. 

"By Jove!" he said, "you've got quite decent- 
looking, Ponderevo ! What do you think of me ? M 



" You're all right. What are you doing here?*" 
" Art, my son — sculpture ! And incidentally- 

He hesitated. "I ply a trade. Will you hand me 
that pipe and those smoking things ? So ! You can't 
make coffee, eh? Well, try your hand. Cast down 
this screen — no — fold it up and so well go into the 
other room. Ill keep in bed all the same. The fire's 
a gas stove. Yes. Don't make it bang too loud as 
you light it — I can't stand it this morning. You won't 
smoke ? . . . Well, it does me good to see you again, 
Ponderevo. Tell me what you're doing, and how you're 
getting on." 

He directed me in the service of his simple hospi- 
tality, and presently I came back to his bed and sat 
down and smiled at him there, smoking comfortably 
with his hands under his head, surveying me. 

"How's Life's Morning, Ponderevo? By Jove, it 
must be nearly six years since we met ! We've got 
moustaches. We've fleshed ourselves a bit, eh ? And 

you ?" 

I felt a pipe was becoming after all, and that lit, 
I gave him a favourable sketch of my career. 

" Science ! And you've worked like that ! While 
I've been potting round doing odd jobs for stone- 
masons and people, and trying to get to sculpture. 

I've a sort of feeling that the chisel I began with 

painting, Ponderevo, and found I was colour-blind, 
colour-blind enough to stop it. I've drawn about and 
thought about — thought more particularly. I give 
myself three days a week as an art student, and the 
rest of the time — I've a sort of trade that keeps me. 
And we're still in the beginning of things, young men 
starting. Do you remember the old times at Goud- 
hurst, our doll's-house island, the Retreat of the Ten 


Thousand, Young Holmes and the rabbits, eh? It's 
surprising, if you think of it, to find we are still young. 
And we used to talk of what Ave would be, and we 
used to talk of love ! I suppose you know all about 
that now, Ponderevo. ,, 

I flushed and hesitated on some vague foolish lie. 
" No," I said, a little ashamed of the truth. " Do 
you ? I've been too busy." 

" Fin just beginning — just as we were then. Things 
happen " 

He sucked at his pipe for a space and stared at the 
plaster cast of a flayed hand that hung on the wall. 

" The fact is, Ponderevo, I'm beginning to find life 
a most extraordinary queer set-out ; the things that 

pull one, the things that don't. The wants ■ This 

business of sex. It's a net. No end to it, no way out 
of it, no sense in it. There are times when women take 
possession of me, when my mind is like a painted ceiling 
at Hampton Court with the pride of the flesh sprawling 
all over it. Why? . . . And then again sometimes 
when I have to encounter a woman, I am overwhelmed 
by a terror of tantalizing boredom — I fly, I hide, I do 
anything. You've got your scientific explanations 
perhaps ; what's Nature and the universe up to in 
that matter ? " 

" It's her way, I gather, of securing the continuity 
of the species." 

"But it doesnV said Ewart. "That's just it! 
No. I have succumbed to — dissipation — down the hill 
there. Euston Road way. And it was damned ugly 
and mean, and I hate having done it. And the con- 
tinuity of the species — lord ! . . . And why does Nature 
make a man so infernally ready for drinks? There's 
no sense in that anyhow." He had sat up in bed, to 


put this question with the greater earnestness. " And 
why has she given me a most violent desire towards 
sculpture and an equally violent desire to leave off 
work directly I begin it, eh ? . . . Let's have some more 
coffee. I put it you, these things puzzle me, Ponderevo. 
They dishearten me. They keep me in bed."" 

He had an air of having saved up these difficulties 
for me for some time. He sat with his chin almost 
touching his knees, sucking at his pipe. 

" That's what I mean," he went on, " when I say life 
is getting on to me as extraordinary queer. I don't see 
my game, nor why I was invited. And I don't make 
anything of the world outside either. "What do you 
make of it ? " 

" London,*" I began. " It's — so enormous ! " 

"Isn't it ! And it's all up to nothing. You find 
chaps keeping grocers' shops — why the devil, Ponderevo, 
do they keep gi-ocers' shops ? They all do it very care- 
fully, very steadily, very meanly. You find people 
running about and doing the most remarkable things — 
being policemen, for example, and burglars. They go 
about these businesses quite gravely and earnestly. I — 
somehow — can't go about mine. Is there any sense in 
it at all — anywhere ? " 

" There must be sense in it," I said. " We're 

" We're young — yes. But one must inquire. The 
grocer's a grocer because, I suppose, he sees he comes 
in there. Feels that on the whole it amounts to a 
call. . . . But the bother is I don't see where I come 
in at all. Do you ? " 

" AVhere you come in ? " 

" No, where you come in." 

" Not exactly, yet," I said. " I want to do some 


good in the world — something — something effectual, 
before I die. I have a sort of idea my scientific 
work I don't know." 

" Yes," he mused. " And IVe got a sort of idea 
my sculpture, — but Jioto it is to come in and rchy, — Fve 
no idea at all." He hugged his knees for a space. 
"That's what puzzles me, Ponderevo, no end." 

He became animated. " If you will look in that 
cupboard," he said, " you will find an old respectable- 
looking roll on a plate and a knife somewhere and a 
gallipot containing butter. You give them me and 
111 make my breakfast, and then if you don't mind 
watching me paddle about at my simple toilet 111 get 
up. Then well go for a walk and talk about this 
affair of life further. And about Art and Literature 
and anything else that crops up on the way. . . . Yes, 
that's the gallipot. Cockroach got in it ? Chuck him 
out — damned interloper. . . ." 

So in the first five minutes of our talk, as I seem 
to remember it now, old Ewart struck the note that 
ran through all that morning's intercourse. . . . 

To me it was a most memorable talk because it 
opened out quite new horizons of thought. I'd been 
working rather close and out of touch with Ewart's 
free gesticulating way. He was pessimistic that day 
and sceptical to the very roots of things. He made 
me feel clearly, what I had not felt at all before, the 
general adventurousness of life, particularly of life at the 
stage we had reached, and also the absence of definite 
objects, of any concerted purpose in the lives that were 
going on all round us. He made me feel, too, how 
ready I was to take up commonplace assumptions. 
Just as I had always imagined that somewhere in social 
arrangements there was certainly a Head-Master who 


would intervene if one went too far, so I had always 
had a sort of implicit belief that in our England there 
were somewhere people who understood what we were 
all, as a nation, about. That crumpled into his pit of 
doubt and vanished. He brought out, sharply cut and 
certain, the immense effect of purposelessness in London 
that I was already indistinctly feeling. We found 
ourselves at last returning through Highgate Cemetery 
and Waterlow Park — and Ewart was talking-. 

" Look at it there, 1 ' he said, stopping and pointing 
to the great vale of London spreading wide and far. 
"It's like a sea — and we swim in it. And at last down 
we go, and then up we come — washed up here." He 
swung his arm to the long slopes about us, tombs and 
headstones in long perspectives, in limitless rows. 
"We're young, Ponderevo, but sooner or later our 
whitened memories will wash up on one of these 
beaches, on some such beach as this. George 
Ponderevo, F.R.S., Sidney Ewart, R.I.P. Look at 
the rows of 'em ! " 

He paused. " Do you see that hand ? The hand, 
I mean, pointing upward, on the top of a blunted 
obelisk. Yes. Well, that's what I do for a living — 
when I'm not thinking, or drinking, or prowling, or 
making love, or pretending Fm trying to be a sculptor 
without either the money or the morals for a model. 
See ? And I do those hearts afire and those pensive 
angel guardians with the palm of peace. Damned well 
I do 'em and damned cheap ! I'm a sweated victim, 
Ponderevo. . . J" 

That was the way of it, anyhow. I drank deep of 
talk that day, we went into theology, into philosophy ; 
I had my first glimpse of socialism. I felt as though 
I had been silent in a silence since I and he had parted. 


At the thought of socialism Ewarfs moods changed for 
a time to a sort of energy. " After all, all this con- 
founded vagueness might be altered. If you could get 
men to work together. . . ." 

It was a good talk that rambled through all the 
universe. I thought I was giving my mind refreshment, 
but indeed it was dissipation. All sorts of ideas, even 
now, carry me back as it were to a fountain-head, to 
Waterlow Park and my resuscitated Ewart. There 
stretches away south of us long garden slopes and 
white gravestones and the wide expanse of London, 
and somewhere in the picture is a red old wall, sun- 
warmed, and a great blaze of Michaelmas daisies set off 
with late golden sunflowers and a drift of mottled, blood- 
red, fallen leaves. It was with me that day as though 
I had lifted my head suddenly out of dull and imme- 
diate things and looked at life altogether. . . . But it 
played the very devil with the copying up of my 
arrears of notes to which I had vowed the latter half 
of that day. 

After that reunion Ewart and I met much and 
talked much, and in our subsequent encounters his 
monologue was interrupted and I took my share. He 
had exercised me so greatly that I lay awake at nights 
thinking him over, and discoursed and answered him in 
my head as I went in the morning to the College. I 
am by nature a doer and only by the way a critic ; his 
philosophical assertion of the incalculable vagueness of 
life which fitted his natural indolence roused my more 
irritable and energetic nature to active protests. " It's 
all so pointless, 11 I said, " because people are slack and 
because it's in the ebb of an age. But you're a socialist. 
Well, lefs bring that about ! And there's a purpose. 
There you are ! 11 


Ewart gave me all my first conceptions of socialism; 
in a little while I was an enthusiastic socialist and 
he was a passive resister to the practical exposition of 
the theories he had taught me. "We must join some 
organization, 1 '' 1 said. " We ought to do things. . . . 
We ought to go and speak at street corners. People 
don't know.'' 1 You must figure me a rather ill-dressed 
young man in a state of great earnestness, standing up 
in that shabby studio of his and saying these things, 
perhaps with some gesticulations, and Ewart with a 
clay-smudged face, dressed perhaps in a flannel shirt 
and trousers, with a pipe in his mouth, squatting philoso- 
phically at a table, working at some chunk of clay that 
never got beyond suggestion. 

" I wonder why one doesn't want to,' 1 he said. . . . 

It was only very slowly I came to gauge Ewarfs 
real position in the scheme of things, to understand 
how deliberate and complete was this detachment of 
his from the moral condemnation and responsibilities 
that played so fine a part in his talk. His was essentially 
the nature of an artistic appreciator; he could find 
interest and beauty in endless aspects of things that I 
marked as evil, or at least as not negotiable ; and the 
impulse I had towards self-deception, to sustained and 
consistent self-devotion, disturbed and detached and 
pointless as it was at that time, he had indeed a sort 
of admiration for but no sympathy. Like many 
fantastic and ample talkers he was at bottom secretive, 
and he gave me a series of little shocks of discovery 
throughout our intercourse. The first of these came 
in the realization that he quite seriously meant to do 
nothing in the world at all towards reforming the evils 
he laid bare in so easy and dexterous a manner. The 
next came in the sudden appearance of a person called 


"Milly 11 — I've forgotten her surname — whom I found 
in his room one evening, simply attired in a blue wrap 
— the rest of her costume behind the screen — smoking 
cigarettes and sharing a flagon of an amazingly cheap 
and self-assertive grocer's wine Ewart affected, called 
" Canary Sack. 11 " Hullo ! " said Ewart, as I came in. 
" This is Milly, you know. She's been being a model — 
she is a model really. . . . (Keep calm, Ponderevo!) 
Have some sack ? " 

Milly was a woman of thirty perhaps, with a broad, 
rather pretty face, a placid disposition, a bad accent 
and delightful blonde hair that waved off her head 
with an irrepressible variety of charm ; and whenever 
Ewart spoke she beamed at him. Ewart was always 
sketching this hair of hers and embarking upon clay 
statuettes of her that were never finished. She was, 
I know now, a woman of the streets, whom Ewart 
had picked up in the most casual manner, and who 
had fallen in love with him, but my inexperience 
in those days was too great for me to place her then,, 
and Ewart offered no elucidations. She came to him, 
he went to her, they took holidays together in the 
country when certainly she sustained her fair share of 
their expenditure. I suspect him now even of taking- 
money from her. Odd old Ewart ! It was a relation- 
ship so alien to my orderly conceptions of honour, to 
what I could imagine any friend of mine doing, that I 
really hardly saw it with it there under my nose. But 
I see it and I think I understand it now. . . . 

Before I fully grasped the discursive manner in 
which Ewart was committed to his particular way in 
life, I did, I say, as the broad constructive ideas of 
socialism took hold of me, try to get him to work with 
me in some definite fashion as a socialist. 


" We ought to join on to other socialists," I said. 
** They've got something." 

" Let's go and look at some first." 

After some pains we discovered the office of the 
Fabian Society, lurking in a cellar in Clement's Inn ; 
and we went and interviewed a rather discouraging 
secretary who stood astraddle in front of a fire and 
questioned us severely and seemed to doubt the in- 
tegrity of our intentions profoundly. He advised us 
to attend the next open meeting in Clifford's Inn and 
gave us the necessary data. We both contrived to get 
to the affair, and heard a discursive gritty paper on 
Trusts and one of the most inconclusive discussions 
you can imagine. Three-quarters of the speakers 
seemed under some jocular obsession which took the 
form of pretending to be conceited. It was a sort of 
family joke and as strangers to the family we did not 
like it. . . . As we came out through the narrow 
passage from Clifford's Inn to the Strand, Ewart sud- 
denly pitched upon a wizened, spectacled little man in 
a vast felt hat and a large orange tie. 

" How many members are there in this Fabian 
Society of yours ? " he asked. 

The little man became at once defensive in his 

"About seven hundred," he said ; "perhaps eight." 

" Like — like the ones here ? " 

The little man gave a nervous self-satisfied laugh. 
" I suppose they're up to sample," he said. 

The little man dropped out of existence and we 
emerged upon the Strand. Ewart twisted his arm into 
a queerly eloquent gesture that gathered up all the tall 
facades of the banks, the business places, the projecting 
clock and towers of the Law Courts, the advertisements, 


the luminous signs, into one social immensity, into a 
capitalistic system gigantic and invincible. 

" These socialists have no sense of proportion," he 
said. " What can you expect of them ? " 


Ewart, as the embodiment of talk, was certainly 
a leading factor in my conspicuous failure to go on 
studying. Social theory in its first crude form of 
Democratic Socialism gripped my intelligence more 
and more powerfully. I argued in the laboratory with 
the man who shared my bench until we quarrelled and 
did not speak. And also I fell in love. 

The ferment of sex had been creeping into my 
being like a slowly advancing tide through all my 
Wimblehurst days, the stimulus of London was like 
the rising of a wind out of the sea that brings the 
waves in fast and high. Ewart had his share in that. 
More and more acutely and unmistakably did my per- 
ception of beauty in form and sound, my desire for 
adventure, my desire for intercourse, converge on this 
central and commanding business of the individual life. 
I had to get me a mate. 

I began to fall in love faintly with girls I passed in 
the street, with women who sat before me in trains, 
with girl fellow- students, with ladies in passing car- 
riages, with loiterers at the corners, with neat-handed 
waitresses in shops and tea-rooms, with pictures even 
of girls and women. On my rare visits to the theatre 
I always became exalted, and found the actresses and 
even the spectators about me mysterious, attractive, 


creatures of deep interest and desire. I had a stronger 
and stronger sense that among these glancing, passing 
multitudes there was somewhere one who was for me. 
And in spite of every antagonistic force in the world, 
there was something in my very marrow that insisted : 
" Stop ! Look at this one ! Think of her ! Won't 
she do ? This signifies — this before all things signifies ! 
Stop ! Why are you hurrying by ? This may be the 
predestined person — before all others. 1 ' 

It is odd that I can't remember when first I saw 
Marion, who became my wife — whom I was to make 
wretched, who was to make me wretched, who was to 
pluck that fine generalized possibility of love out of 
my early manhood and make it a personal conflict. 
I became aware of her as one of a number of interest- 
ing attractive figures that moved about in my world, 
that glanced back at my eyes, that flitted by with a 
kind of averted watchfulness. I would meet her coming 
through the Art Museum, which was my short cut to 
the Brompton Road, or see her sitting, reading as I 
thought, in one of the bays of the Education Library. 
But really, as I found out afterwards, she never read. 
She used to come there to eat a bun in quiet. She 
was a very gracefully-moving figure of a girl then, very 
plainly dressed, with dark brown hair I remember, in 
a knot low on her neck behind that confessed the 
pretty roundness of her head and harmonized with the 
admirable lines of ears and cheek, the grave serenity 
of mouth and brow. 

She stood out among the other girls very distinctly 
because they dressed more than she did, struck emphatic 
notes of colour, startled one by novelties in hats and 
bows and things. I've always hated the rustle, the 
disconcerting colour boundaries, the smart unnatural 


angles of women's clothes. Her plain black dress gave 
her a starkness. . . . 

I do remember though, how one afternoon I dis- 
covered the peculiar appeal of her form for me. I had 
been restless with my work and had finally slipped out 
of the Laboratory and come over to the Art Museum 
to lounge among the pictures. I came upon her in an 
odd corner of the Sheepshanks gallery intently copying 
something from a picture that hung high. I had just 
been in the gallery of casts from the antique, my mind 
was all alive with my newly awakened sense of line, 
and there she stood with face upturned, her body 
drooping forward from the hips just a little — memorably 
graceful — feminine. 

After that I know I sought to see her, felt a dis- 
tinctive emotion at her presence, began to imagine 
things about her. I no longer thought of generalized 
womanhood or of this casual person or that. I thought 
of her. 

An accident brought us together. I found myself 
one Monday morning in an omnibus staggering west- 
ward from Victoria — I was returning from a Sunday 
Fd spent at Wimblehurst in response to a unique freak 
of hospitality on the part of Mr. Man tell. She was 
the sole other inside passenger. And when the time 
came to pay her fare, she became an extremely scared, 
disconcerted and fumbling vouno; woman ; she had left 
her purse at home. 

Luckily I had some money. 

She looked at me with startled, troubled brown 
eyes ; she permitted my proffered payment to the con- 
ductor with a certain ungraciousness that seemed a part 
of her shyness, and then as she rose to go, she thanked 
me with an obvious affectation of ease. 


"Thank you so much," she said in a pleasant soft 
voice ; and then less gracefully, " Awfully kind of you, 
you know."" 

I fancy I made polite noises. But just then I wasn't 
disposed to be critical. I was full of the sense of her 
presence, her arm was stretched out over me as she 
moved past me, the gracious slenderness of her body 
was near me. The words we used didn't seem very 
greatly to matter. I had vague ideas of getting out 
with her — and I didn't. 

That encounter, I have no doubt, exercised me 
enormously. I lay awake at night rehearsing it, and 
wondering about the next phase of our relationship. 
That took the form of the return of my twopence. I 
was in the Science Library, digging something out of 
the Encyclopccdia Britannica, when she appeared beside 
me and placed on the open page an evidently pre- 
meditated thin envelope, bulgingly confessing the coins 

" It was so very kind of you," she said, " the other 
day. I don't know what I should have done, Mr. " 

I supplied my name. " I knew," I said, "you were 
a student here." 

" Not exactly a student. I " 

" Well, anyhow, I knew you were here frequently. 
And I'm a student myself at the Consolidated Technical 

I plunged into autobiography and questionings, and 
so entangled her in a conversation that got a quality of 
intimacy through the fact that, out of deference to our 
fellow-readers, we were obliged to speak in undertones. 
And I have no doubt that in substance it was singularly 
banal. Indeed I have an impression that all our early 
conversations were incredibly banal. We met several 


times in a manner half-accidental, half-furtive and 
wholly awkward. Mentally I didn't take hold of her. 
I never did take hold of her mentally. Her talk, I now 
know all too clearly, was shallow, pretentious, evasive. 
Only — even to this day — I don't remember it as in any 
way vulgar. She was, I could see quite clearly, anxious 
to overstate or conceal her real social status, a little 
desirous to be taken for a student in the art school 
and a little ashamed that she wasn't. She came to 
the museum to "copy things, 1 ' and this, I gathered, 
had something to do with some way of partially earn- 
ing her living that I wasn't to inquire into. I told 
her things about myself, vain things that I felt might 
appeal to her, but that I learnt long afterwards made 
her think me " conceited." We talked of books but 
there she was very much on her guard and secretive, 
and rather more freely of pictures. She " liked " pic- 
tures. I think from the outset I appreciated and did 
not for a moment resent that hers was a commonplace 
mind, that she was the unconscious custodian of some- 
thing that had gripped my most intimate instinct, that 
she embodied the hope of a possibility, was the care- 
less proprietor of a physical quality that had turned 
my head like strong wine. I felt I had to stick to our 
acquaintance, flat as it was. Presently we should get 
through these irrelevant exterior things, and come to 
the reality of love beneath. 

I saw her in dreams released, as it were, from her- 
self, beautiful, worshipful, glowing. And sometimes 
when we were together, we would come on silences 
through sheer lack of matter, and then my eyes would 
feast on her and the silence seemed like the drawing 
back of a curtain — her superficial self. Odd, I confess. 
Odd, particularly, the enormous hold of certain things 


about her upon me, a certain slight rounded duskiness 
of skin, a certain perfection of modelling in her lips, her 
brow, a certain fine flow about the shoulders. She 
wasn't indeed beautiful to many people — these things 
are beyond explaining. She had manifest defects of 
form and feature, and they didn't matter at all. Her 
complexion was bad, but I don't think it would have 
mattered if it had been positively unwholesome. I had 
extraordinarily limited, extraordinarily painful, desires. 
I longed intolerably to kiss her lips. 


The affair was immensely serious and commanding 
to me. I don't remember that in these earlier phases 
I had any thought of turning back at all. It was clear 
to me that she regarded me with an eye entirely more 
critical than I had for her, that she didn't like my 
scholarly untidiness, my want of even the most common- 
place style. " Why do you wear collars like that ?" she 
said, and sent me in pursuit of gentlemanly neckwear. I 
remember when she invited me a little abruptly one day 
to come to tea at her home on the following Sunday 
and meet her father and mother and aunt, that I 
immediately doubted whether my hitherto unsuspected 
best clothes would create the impression she desired me 
to make on her belongings. I put off the encounter 
until the Sunday after, to get myself in order. I had 
a morning coat made and I bought a silk hat, and had 
my reward in the first glance of admiration she ever 
gave me. I wonder how many of my sex are as pre- 
posterous. I was, you see, abandoning all my beliefs — 
all my conventions unasked. I was forgetting myself 


— immensely. And there was a conscious shame in it 
all. Never a word did I breathe to Ewart — to any 
living soul — of what was going on. 

Her father and mother and aunt struck me as the 
dismalest of people, and her home in Walham Green 
was chiefly notable for its black and amber tapestry 
carpets and curtains and table-cloths, and the age and 
irrelevance of its books, mostly books with faded gilt 
on the covers. The windows were fortified against the 
intrusive eye by cheap lace curtains and an " art pot " 
upon an unstable octagonal table. Several framed 
Art School drawings of Marion's, bearing official South 
Kensington marks of approval, adorned the room, and 
there was a black and gilt piano with a hymn-book 
on the top of it. There were draped mirrors over all 
the mantels, and above the sideboard in the dining- 
room in which we sat at tea was a portrait of her 
father, villainously truthful after the manner of such 
works. I couldn't see a trace of the beauty I found 
in her in either parent, yet she somehow contrived 
to be like them both. 

These people pretended in a way that reminded me 
of the Three Great Women in my mother's room, but 
they had not nearly so much social knowledge and did 
not do it nearly so well. Also, I remarked, they did 
it with an eye on Marion: They had wanted to thank 
me, they said, for the kindness to their daughter in the 
matter of the 'bus fare, and so accounted for anything 
unusual in their invitation. They posed as simple 
gentle-folk, a little hostile to the rush and gadding- 
about of London, preferring a secluded and unpretentious 

When Marion got out the white table-cloth from 
the sideboard-drawer for tea, a card bearing the word 



" Ajpartments " fell to the floor. I picked it up and 
gave it to her before I realized from her quickened 
colour that I should not have seen it ; that probably it 
had been removed from the window in honour of my 

Her father spoke once in a large remote way of the 
claims of business engagements, and it was only long 
afterwards I realized that he was a supernumerary clerk 
in the Walham Green Gas Works and otherwise a 
useful man at home. He was a large, loose, fattish 
man with unintelligent brown eves magnified by 
spectacles ; he wore an ill-fitting frock-coat and a 
paper collar, and he showed me, as his great treasure 
and interest, a large Bible which he had grangerized 
with photographs of pictures. Also he cultivated the 
little garden-yard behind the house, and he had a 
small greenhouse with tomatoes. " I wish 1 "ad 'eat, 1 ' 
he said. " One can do such a lot with Vat. But I 
suppose you can't 'ave everything you want in this 

Both he and Marion's mother treated her with a 
deference that struck me as the most natural thins: in 
the world. Her own manner changed, became more 
authoritative and watchful, her shyness disappeared. 
She had taken a line of her own I gathered, draped 
the mirror, got the second-hand piano, and broken her 
parents in. Her mother must once have been a pretty 
woman ; she had regular features and Marion's hair 
without its lustre, but she was thin and careworn. 
The aunt, Miss Ramboat, was a large, abnormally shy 
person very like her brother, and I don't recall any- 
thing she said on this occasion. 

To begin with there was a good deal of tension — 
Marion was frightfully nervous and every one was 


under the necessity of behaving in a mysteriously unreal 
fashion until I plunged, became talkative and made a 
certain ease and interest. I told them of the schools, 
of my lodgings, of Wimblehurst and my apprenticeship 
days. "There's a lot of this Science about nowadays," 
Mr. Ramboat reflected ; " but I sometimes wonder a bit 
what good it is?" 

I was young enough to be led into what he called 
" a bit of a discussion," which Marion truncated before 
our voices became unduly raised. "I dare say," she 
said, " there's much to be said on both sides." 

I remember Marion's mother asked me what church 
I attended, and that I replied evasively. After tea 
there was music and we sang hymns. I doubted if 
I had a voice when this was proposed, but that was 
held to be a trivial objection, and I found sitting close 
beside the sweep of hair from Marion's brow had many 
compensations. I discovered her mother sitting in the 
horsehair armchair and regarding us sentimentally. 
I went for a walk with Marion towards Putney Bridge, 
and then there was more singing and a supper of 
cold bacon and pie, after which Mr. Ramboat and I 
smoked. During that walk, I remember, she told me 
the import of her sketchings and copyings in the 
museum. A cousin of a friend of hers whom she 
spoke of as Smithie, had developed an original business. 
in a sort of tea-gown garment which she called a 
Persian Robe, a plain sort of wrap with a gaily 
embroidered yoke, and Marion went there and worked 
in the busy times. In the times that weren't busy she 
designed novelties in yokes by an assiduous use of eyes 
and note-book in the museum, and went home and 
traced out the captured forms on the foundation 
material. " I don't get much," said Marion, " but it's 


interesting, and in the busy times we work all day. 
Of course the workgirls are dreadfully common, but we 
don't say much to them. And Smithie talks enough 
for ten." 

I quite understood the workgirls were dreadfully 

I don't remember that Walham Green menage and 
the quality of these people, nor the light they threw 
on Marion, detracted in the slightest degree at that 
time from the intent resolve that held me to make her 
mine. I didn't like them. But I took them as part 
jof the affair. Indeed, on the whole, I think they threw 
2ier up by an effect of contrast ; she was so obviously 
controlling them, so consciously superior to them. 

More and more of my time did I give to this 
passion that possessed me. I began to think chiefly 
of ways of pleasing Marion, of acts of devotion, of 
treats, of sumptuous presents for her, of appeals she 
would understand. If at times she was manifestly 
.unintelligent, if her ignorance became indisputable, 
I told myself her simple instincts were worth all the 
education and intelligence in the world. And to this 
day I think I wasn't altogether wrong about her. 
There was, I still recognize, something fine about her, 
something simple and high, that flickered in and out 
of her ignorance and commonness and limitations like 
the tongue from the mouth of a snake. . . . 

One night I was privileged to meet her and bring her 
home from an entertainment at the Birkbeck Institute. 
We came back on the underground railway and we 
travelled first-class — that being the highest class avail- 
able. We were alone in the carriage, and for the first 
time I ventured to put my arm about her. 

" You mustn't," she said feebly. 


" I love you," I whispered suddenly with my heart 
beating wildly, drew her to me, drew all her beauty to 
me and kissed her cool and unresisting lips. 

"Love me?"" she said, struggling away from me, 
" Don't ! " and then, as the train ran into a station, 
"You must tell no one. . . I don't know. . . . You 
shouldn't have done that. . . ." 

Then two other people got in with us and terminated 
my wooing for a time. 

When we found ourselves alone together, walking 
towards Battersea, she had decided to be offended. I 
parted from her unforgiven and terribly distressed. 

When we met again, she told me I must never do 
" that M again. 

I had dreamt that to kiss her lips was ultimate 
satisfaction. But it was indeed only the beginning of 
desires. I told her my one ambition was to marry her. 

"But," she said, "you're not in a position 

What's the good of talking like that ? " 

I stared at her. " I mean to," I said. 

" You can't," she answered. " It will be years " 

" But I love you," I insisted. 

I stood not a yard from the sweet lips I had kissed ; 
I stood within aim's length of the inanimate beauty 
I desired to quicken, and I saw opening between us a 
gulf of years, toil, waiting, disappointments and an 
immense uncertainty. 

" I love you," I said. " Don't you love me ? " 

She looked me in the face with grave irresponsive 

" I don't know," she said. " I like you, of 
course. . . . One has to be sensible. . . ." 

I can remember now my sense of frustration by her 
unresilient reply. I should have perceived then that 


for her my adour had no quickening fire. But how 
was I to know ? I had let myself come to want her, 
my imagination endowed her with infinite possi- 
bilities. I wanted her and wanted her, stupidly and 
instinctively. . . . 

« But," I said ; "Love ! " 

" One has to be sensible," she replied. " I like 
going about with you. Can't we keep as we are ? n 


Well, you begin to understand my breakdown now. 
I have been copious enough with these apologia. My 
work got more and more spiritless, my behaviour de- 
generated, my punctuality declined ; I was more and 
more outclassed in the steady grind by my fellow- 
students. Such supplies of moral energy as I still had 
at command shaped now in the direction of serving 
Marion rather than science. 

I fell away dreadfully, more and more I shirked and 
skulked; the humped men from the north, the pale 
men with thin, clenched minds, the intent, hard- 
breathing students I found against me, fell at last from 
keen rivalry to moral contempt. Even a girl got above 
me upon one of the lists. Then indeed I made it a 
point of honour to show by my public disregard of 
every rule that I really did not even pretend to try. . . . 

So one day I found myself sitting in a mood of 
considerable astonishment in Kensington Gardens, re- 
flecting on a recent heated interview with the school 
Registrar in which I had displayed more spirit than 
sense. I was astonished chiefly at my stupendous fall- 
ing away from all the militant ideals of unflinching 


study I had brought up from Wimblehurst. I had 
displayed myself, as the Registrar put it, " an unmiti- 
gated rotter." My failure to get marks in the written 
examination had only been equalled by the insufficiency 
of my practical work. 

" I ask you," 11 the Registrar had said, " what will 
become of you when your scholarship runs out ? " 

It certainly was an interesting question. What was 
going to become of me ? 

It was clear there would be nothing for me in the 
schools as I had once dared to hope ; there seemed, 
indeed, scarcely anything in the world except an ill- 
paid assistantship in some provincial organized Science 
School or grammar school. I knew that for that sort 
of work, without a degree or any qualification, one 
earned hardly a bare living and had little leisure to 
struggle up to anything better. If only I had even as 
little as fifty pounds I might hold out in London and 
take my B.Sc. degree, and quadruple my chances ! My 
bitterness against my uncle returned at the thought. 
After all, he had some of my money still, or ought to 
have. Why shouldn't I act within my rights, threaten 
to "take proceedings'' 1 ? I meditated for a space on 
the idea, and then returned to the Science library and 
wrote him a very considerable and occasionally pungent 

That letter to my uncle was the nadir of my failure. 
Its remarkable consequences which ended my student 
days altogether, I will tell in the next chapter. 

I say " my failure.' 1 '' Yet there are times when I 
can even doubt whether that period was a failure at 
all, when I become defensively critical of those exact- 
ing courses I did not follow, the encyclopaedic process 
of scientific exhaustion from which I was distracted. 


My mind was not inactive, even if it fed on forbidden 
food. I did not learn what my professors and demon- 
strators had resolved I should learn, but I learnt many 
things. My mind learnt to swing wide and to swing 
by itself. 

After all, those other fellows who took high places 
in the College examinations and were the professor's 
model boys, haven't done so amazingly. Some are 
professors themselves, some technical experts ; not one 
can show things done such as I, following my own 
interest, have achieved. For I have built boats that 
smack across the Avater like whip-lashes, no one ever 
dreamt of such boats until I built them ; and I have 
surprised three secrets that are more than technical 
discoveries, in the unexpected hiding-places of Nature. 
I have come nearer flying than any man has done. 
Could I have done as much if I had had a turn for 
obeying those rather mediocre professors at the college 
who proposed to train my mind ? If I had been trained 
in research — that ridiculous contradiction in terms — 
should I have done more than produce additions to the 
existing store of little papers with blunted conclusions, 
of which there are already too many ? I see no sense 
in mock modesty upon this matter. Even by the stan- 
dards of worldly success I am, by the side of my fellow- 
students, no failure. I had my F.R.S. by the time I was 
thirty-seven, and if I am not very wealthy, poverty is 
as far from me as the Spanish Inquisition. Suppose I 
had stamped down on the head of my wandering curi- 
osity, locked my imagination in a box just when it 
wanted to grow out to things, worked by so-and-so's 
excellent method and so-and-so's indications, where 
should I be now ? . . . 

I may be all wrong in this. It may be I should 


be a far more efficient man than I am if I had cut off 
all those divergent expenditures of energy, plugged up 
my curiosity about society with some currently accept- 
able rubbish or other, abandoned Ewart, evaded Marion 
instead of pursuing her, concentrated. But I don't 
believe it ! 

However, I certainly believed it completely and 
was filled with remorse on that afternoon when I sat 
dejectedly in Kensington Gardens and reviewed, in the 
light of the Registrar's pertinent questions, my first 
two vears in London. 


The Dawn comes, and my Uncle appears 
in a New Silk Hat 


Throughout my student days I had not seen my uncle. 
I refrained from going to him in spite of an occasional 
regret that in this way I estranged myself from my 
aunt Susan, and I maintained a sulky attitude of mind 
towards him. And I don't think that once in all that 
time I gave a thought to that mystic word of his that was 
to alter all the world for us. Yet I had not altogether 
forgotten it. It was with a touch of memory, dim 
transient perplexity if no more — why did this thing 
seem in some way personal ? — that I read a new 
inscription upon the hoardings : 


That was all. It was simple and yet in some way 
arresting. I found myself repeating the word after I 
had passed, it roused one's attention like the sound of 



distant guns. " Tono " — what's that ? and deep, rich, 
unhurrying ; — " Bun — gay ! , "' 

Then came my uncle's amazing telegram, his answer 
to my hostile note : " Come to me at once you cur wanted 
three hundred a year certain tono-hungay^ 

" By Jove ! " I cried, " of course ! 

"It's something . A patent-medicine! I wonder 

what he wants with me ? 11 

In his Napoleonic way my uncle had omitted to 
give an address. His telegram had been handed in 
at Farringdon Road, and after complex meditations I 
replied to Ponderevo, Farringdon Road, trusting to 
the raritv of our surname to reach him. 

" Where are you ? " I asked. 

His reply came promptly : 

" 192a, Raggett Street, E.C." 

The next day I took an unsanctioned holiday after 
the morning's lecture. I discovered my uncle in a won- 
derfully new silk hat— oh, a splendid hat! with a roll- 
ing brim that went beyond the common fashion. It 
was decidedly too big for him — that was its only fault. 
It was stuck on the back of his head, and he was in 
a white waistcoat and shirt sleeves. He welcomed me 
with a forgetfulness of my bitter satire and my hostile 
abstinence that was almost divine. His glasses fell off 
at the sight of me. His round inexpressive eyes shone 
brightly. He held out his plump short hand. 

" Here we are, George ! What did I tell you ? 
Needn't whisper it now, my boy. Shout it — loud ! 
Spread it about ! Tell every one \ Tono — Tono, — 

Raggett Street, you must understand, was a 
thoroughfare over which someone had distributed 
large quantities of cabbage stumps and leaves. It 


opened out of the upper end of Farringdon Street, 
and 192a was a shop with the plate-glass front 
coloured chocolate, on which several of the same bills 
I had read upon the hoardings had been stuck. 
The floor was covered by street mud that had been 
brought in on dirty boots, and three energetic young 
men of the hooligan type, in neck-wraps and caps, were 
packing wooden cases with papered-up bottles, amidst 
much straw and confusion. The counter was littered 
with these same swathed bottles, of a pattern then 
novel but now amazingly familiar in the world, the 
blue paper with the coruscating figure of a genially- 
nude giant, and the printed directions of how under 
practically all circumstances to take Tono-Bungay. 
Beyond the counter on one side opened a staircase 
down which I seem to remember a giil descending with 
a further consignment of bottles, and the rest of the 
background was a high partition, also chocolate, with 
" Temporary Laboratory M inscribed upon it in white 
letters, and over a door that pierced it, " Office." 
Here I rapped, inaudible amid much hammering, and 
then entered unanswered to find my uncle, dressed as 
I have described, one hand gripping a sheath of letters, 
and the other scratching his head as he dictated to 
one of three toiling typewriter girls. Behind him was 
a further partition and a door inscribed "ABSO- 
This partition was of wood painted the universal 
chocolate, up to about eight feet from the ground 
and then of glass. Through the glass I saw dimly a 
crowded suggestion of crucibles and glass retorts, and 
— by Jove ! — yes ! — the dear old Wimblehurst air- 
pump still ! It gave me quite a little thrill — that 
air-pump ! And beside it was the electrical machine 


— but something — some serious trouble — had happened 
to that. All these were evidently placed on a shelf 
just at the level to show. 

"Come right into the sanctum, 11 said my uncle, 
after he had finished something about " esteemed con- 
sideration, 1 '' and whisked me through the door into a 
room that quite amazingly failed to verify the promise 
of that apparatus. It was papered with dingy wall- 
paper that had peeled in places ; it contained a fire- 
place, an easy-chair with a cushion, a table on which 
stood two or three big bottles, a number of cigar-boxes 
on the mantel, a whiskey Tantalus and a row of soda 
syphons. He shut the door after me carefully. 

" Well, here we are ! " he said. " Going strong ! 
Have a whiskey, George ? No ! — Wise man ! Neither 
will I ! You see me at it ! At it — hard ! " 

" Hard at what ? " 

" Read it, 11 and he thrust into my hand a label — 
that label that has now become one of the most familiar 
objects of the chemist's shop, the greenish-blue rather 
old-fashioned bordering, the legend, the name in good 
black type, very clear, and the strong man all set about 
with lightning flashes above the double column of skilful 
lies in red — the label of Tono-Bungay. " It's afloat, 11 
he said, as I stood puzzling at this. " Ifs afloat. I'm 
afloat ! " And suddenly he burst out singing in that 
throaty tenor of his — 

"I'm afloat, I'm afloat on the fierce flowing tide, 
The ocean's ruy home and my bark is my bride ! " 


Ripping song that is, George. Not so much a 
bark as a solution, but still — it does ! Here we are at 
it ! By-the-by ! Half a mo 1 ! I've thought of a 
thing. 11 He whisked out, leaving me to examine this 


nuclear spot at leisure, while his voice became dicta- 
torial without. The den struck me as in its large 
grey dirty way quite unprecedented and extraordinary. 
The bottles were all labelled simply A, B, C, and so 
forth, and that dear old apparatus above, seen from 
this side, was even more patently " on the shelf " than 
when it had been used to impress Wimblehurst. I saw 
nothing for it but to sit down in the chair and await 
my uncle's explanations. I remarked a frock-coat with 
satin lapels behind the door; there was a dignified 
umbrella in the corner and a clothes-brush and a bat- 
brush stood on a side-table. My uncle returned in 
five minutes looking at his watch — a gold watch — 
" Gettin 1 lunch-time, George,"" he said. " You'd better 
come and have lunch with me ! "" 

" How's Aunt Susan ? " I asked. 

" Exuberant. Never saw her so larky. This has 
bucked her up something wonderful — all this." 

" All what ? " 


" Tono-Bungay. 11 

" What is Tono-Bungay ? " I asked. 

My uncle hesitated. " Tell you after lunch, George," 
he said. " Come along ! " and having locked up the 
sanctum after himself, led the way along a narrow dirty 
pavement, lined with barrows and swept at times by 
avalanche-like porters bearing burthens to vans, to 
Farringdon Street. He hailed a passing cab superbly, 
and the cabman was infinitely respectful. " Schafers 1 ," 
he said, and off Ave went side by side — and with me 
more and more amazed at all these things — to Schafers" 1 
Hotel, the second of the two big places with huge lace 
curtain-covered windows, near the corner of Blackfriars 

I will confess I felt a magic change in our relative 


proportions as the two colossal, pale-blue-and-red 
liveried porters of Schafers 1 held open the inner doors 
for us with a respectful salutation that in some manner 
they seemed to confine wholly to my uncle. Instead of 
being about four inches taller, I felt at least the same 
size as he, and very much slenderer. Still more re- 
spectful waiters relieved him of the new hat and the 
dignified umbrella, and took his orders for our lunch. 
He gave them with a fine assurance. 

He nodded to several of the waiters. 

" They know me, George, already, 11 he said. " Point 
me out. Live place ! Eye for coming men ! " 

The detailed business of the lunch engaged our 
attention for a while, and then I leant across my plate. 
"And now?" said I. 

" It's the secret of vigour. Didn't you read that 

"Yes, but " 

"It's selling like hot cakes." 

" And what is it ? " I pressed. 

" Well," said my uncle, and then leant forward and 
spoke softly under cover of his hand, " It's nothing 
more or less than . . ." 

(But here an unfortunate scruple intervenes. After 
all, Tono- Bungay is still a marketable commodity and 
in the hands of purchasers, who bought it from — among 
other vendors — me. No ! I am afraid I cannot give it 

" You see," said my uncle in a slow confidential 
whisper, with eyes very wide and a creased forehead, 
" ifs nice because of the " (here he mentioned a 
flavouring matter and an aromatic spirit), " it's stimu- 
lating because of" (here he mentioned two very vivid 
tonics, one with a marked action on the kidney). 



And the" 11 (here he mentioned two other ingredients) 
makes it pretty intoxicating. Cocks their tails. 
Then there V (but I touch on the essential secret). 
" And there you are. I got it out of an old book of 
recipes — all except the " (here he mentioned the more 
virulent substance, the one that assails the kidneys), 
" which is my idea. Modern touch ! There you are ! " 

He reverted to the direction of our lunch. 

Presently he was leading the way to the lounge — a 
sumptuous place in red morocco and yellow glazed 
crockery, with incredible vistas of settees and sofas 
and things, and there I found myself grouped with 
him in two excessively upholstered chairs with an 
earthenware Moorish table between us bearing coffee 
and Benedictine, and I was tasting the delights of a 
tenpenny cigar. My uncle smoked a similar cigar in 
an habituated manner, and he looked energetic and 
knowing and luxurious and most unexpectedly a little 
bounder, round the end of it. It was just a trivial 
flaw upon our swagger, perhaps, that we both were 
clear our cigars had to be " mild." He got obliquely 
across the spaces of his great armchair so as to incline 
confidentially to my ear, he curled up his little legs, 
and I, in my longer way, adopted a corresponding re- 
ceptive obliquity. J felt that we should strike an 
unbiassed observer as a couple of very deep and wily 
and developing and repulsive persons. 

" I want to let you into this " — puff — " George," 
said my uncle round the end of his cigar. ' : For many 


His voice grew lower and more cunning. He made 
explanations that to my inexperience did not com- 
pletely explain. I retain an impression of a long credit 
and a share with a firm of wholesale chemists, of a 


credit and a prospective share with some pirate printers, 
of a third share for a leading magazine and newspaper 

" I played "em off one against the other," said my 
uncle. I took his point in an instant. He had gone to 
each of them in turn and said the others had come in. 

" I put up four hundred pounds," said my uncle, 
" myself and my all. And you know w 

He assumed a brisk confidence. " I hadn't five 
hundred pence. At least " 

For a moment he really was just a little embarrassed. 
" I did" he said, " produce capital. You see, there was 
that trust affair of yours — I ought I suppose — in strict 
legality — to have put that straight first. Zzzz. . . . 

" It was a bold thing to do, 11 said my uncle, shifting 
the venue from the region of honour to the region of 
courage. And then with a characteristic outburst of 
piety, " Thank God it's all come right ! 

" And now, I suppose, you ask where do you come 
in ? Well, fact is I've always believed in you, George. 
You've got — it's a sort of dismal grit. Bark your 
shins, rouse you, and you'll go ! You'd rush any posi- 
tion you had a mind to rush. I know a bit about 

character, George — trust me. You've got " He 

clenched his hands and thrust them out suddenly, 
and at the same time said, with explosive violence, 
" Wooosh ! Yes. You have ! The way you put away 
that Latin at Wimblehurst ; I've never forgotten it. 
Wo-oo-oo-osh ! Your science and all that ! Wo-oo- 
oo-osh ! I know my limitations. There's things I can 
do, and" (he spoke in a whisper, as though this was 
the first hint of his life's secret) " there's things I can't. 
Well, I can create this business, but I can't make it 
go. I'm too voluminous — I'm a boiler-over, not a 



simmering stick-at-it. You keep on hotting up and 
hotting up. Papin's digester. That's you, steady and 
long and piling up, — then, wo-oo-oo-oo-osh. Come in 
and stiffen these niggers. Teach them that wo-oo-oo- 
osh. There you are ! That's what Fm after. You ! 
Nobody else believes you're more than a boy. Come 
right in with me and be a man. Eh, George ? Think 
of the fun of it — a thing on the go — a Real Live 
Thing ! Wooshing it up ! Making it buzz and spin ! 
Whoo-oo-oo." — He made alluring expanding circles 
in the air with his hand. " Eh ? " 

His proposal, sinking to confidential undertones 
again, took more definite shape. I was to give all my 
time and energy to developing and organizing. " You 
shan't write a single advertisement, or give a single 
assurance," he declared. "I can do all that.'" And 
the telegram was no flourish ; I was to have three 
hundred a year. Three hundred a year. ("That's 
nothing,"" 1 said my uncle, " the thing to freeze on to, 
when the time comes, is your tenth of the vendors 
share." 1 ") 

Three hundred a year certain, anyhow ! It was an 
enormous income to me. For a moment I was alto- 
gether staggered. Could there be that much money in 
the whole concern ? I looked about me at the sumptuous 
furniture of Schafers 1 Hotel. No doubt there were many 
such incomes. 

My head was spinning with unwonted Benedictine 
and Burgundy. 

"Let me go back and look at the game again," I 
said. " Let me see upstairs and round about." 

I did. 

" What do you think of it all ? " my uncle asked at 


• 4 Well, for one thing,"" I said, " why don't you have 
those girls working in a decently ventilated room ? 
Apart from any other consideration, they'd work twice 
as briskly. And they ought to cover the corks before 
labelling round the bottle " 

" Why ? " said my uncle. 

"Because — they sometimes make a mucker of the 
cork job, and then the label's wasted.''' 

" Come and change it, George," said my uncle, with 
sudden fervour. " Come here and make a machine of 
it. You can. Make it all slick, and then make it 
woosh. I know you can. Oh ! I know you can." 


I seem to remember very quick changes of mind after 
that lunch. The muzzy exaltation of the unaccustomed 
stimulants gave way very rapidly to a mood of pellucid 
and impartial clairvoyance which is one of my habitual 
mental states. It is intermittent ; it leaves me for 
weeks together, I know, but back it comes at last like 
justice on circuit, and calls up all my impressions, all 
my illusions, all my wilful and passionate proceedings. 
We came downstairs again into that inner room which 
pretended to be a scientific laboratory through its high 
glass lights, and indeed was a lurking place. My uncle 
pressed a cigarette on me, and I took it and stood 
before the empty fireplace while he propped his umbrella 
in the corner, deposited the new silk hat that was a 
little too big for him on the table, blew copiously and 
produced a second cigar. 

It came into my head that he had shrunken very 
much in size since the Wimblehurst days, that the 


cannon ball he had swallowed was rather more evident 
and shameless than it had been, his skin less fresh and 
the nose between his glasses, which still didn't quite fit, 
much redder. And just then he seemed much laxer in 
his muscles and not quite as alertly quick in his move- 
ments. But he evidently wasn't aware of the degenerative 
nature of his changes as he sat there, looking suddenly 
quite little under my eyes. 

" Well, George ! " he said, quite happily unconscious 
of my silent criticism, " what do you think of it all ?" 

" Well,'" I said ; " in the first place — it's a damned 
swindle ! " 

" Tut ! tut ! " said my uncle. " It's as straight 
as It's fair trading ! " 

" So much the worse for trading," I said. 

" It's the sort of thing everybody does. After all, 
there's no harm in the stuff — and it may do good. It 
might do a lot of good — giving people confidence, 
f rinstance, against an epidemic. See ? Why not ? I 
don't see where your swindle comes in." 

" H'm," I said. " It's a thing you either see or 
don't see." 

" I'd like to know what sort of trading isn't a 
swindle in its way. Everybody who does a large 
advertised trade is selling something common on the 
strength of saying it's uncommon. Look at Chickson — 
they made him a baronet. Look at Lord Radmore, 
who did it on lying about the alkali in soap ! Rippin' 
ads those were of his too ! " 

" You don't mean to say you think doing this stuff 
up in bottles and swearing it's the quintessence of 
strength and making poor devils buy it at that, is 
straight ? " 

" Why not, George ? How do we know it mayn't 


be the quintessence to them so far as they're con- 
cerned ? " 

*' Oh ! " I said, and shrugged my shoulders. 

"There's Faith. You put Faith in 'em. ... I 
grant our labels are a bit emphatic. Christian Science, 
really. No good setting people against the medicine. 
Tell me a solitary trade nowadays that hasn't to be — 
emphatic. It's the modern way ! Everybody under- 
stands it — everybody allows for it." 

"But the world would be no worse and rather 
better, if all this stuff of yours was run down a conduit 
into the Thames." 

" Don't see that, George, at all. 'Mong other things, 
all our people would be out of work. Unemployed ! 
I grant you Tono-Bungay may be — not quite so good 
a find for the world as Peruvian bark, but the point is, 
George — it makes trade ! And the world lives on trade. 
Commerce ! A romantic exchange of commodities and 
property. Romance. 'Magination. See ? You must 
look at these things in a broad light. Look at the 
wood — and forget the trees ! And hang it, George ! 
we got to do these things ! There's no way unless you 
do. What do you mean to do — anyhow ? " 

"There's ways of living," I said, "without either 
fraud or lying." 

"You're a bit stiff, George. There's no fraud in 
this affair, I'll bet my hat ! But what do you propose 
to do ? Go as chemist to some one who is running a 
business, and draw a salary without a share like I offer 
you. Much sense in that ! It comes out of the swindle 
— as you call it — just the same." 

" Some businesses are straight and quiet, anyhow ; 
supply a sound article that is really needed, don't shout 


" No, George. There you're behind the times. The 
last of that sort was sold up 'bout five years ago. 1 ' 

" Well, there's scientific research." 

" And who pays for that ? Who put up that big 
City and Guilds place at South Kensington ? Enter- 
prising business men ! They fancy they'll have a bit 
of science going on, they want a handy Expert ever 
and again, and there you are ! And what do you get 
for research when you've done it ? Just a bare living 
and no outlook. They just keep you to make dis- 
coveries, and if they fancy they'll use 'em they do." 

" One can teach."' 

" How much a year, George ? How much a year ? 
I suppose you must respect Carlyle ! Well, — you take 
Carlyle's test — solvency. (Lord ! what a book that 
French Revolution of his is !) See what the world 
pays teachers and discoverers and what it pays business 
men ! That shows the ones it really wants. There's a 
justice in these big things, George, over and above the 
apparent injustice. I tell you it wants trade. It's 
Trade that makes the world go round ! Argosies ! 
Venice ! Empire ! " 

My uncle suddenly rose to his feet. 

" You think it over, George. You think it over ! 
And come up on Sunday to the new place — we got 
rooms in Gower Street now — and see your aunt. She's 
often asked for you, George — often and often, and 
thrown it up at me about that bit of property — though 
I've always said and always will, that twenty-five 
shillings in the pound is what I'll pay you and interest 
up to the nail. And think it over. It isn't me I ask 
you to help. It's yourself. It's your aunt Susan. It's 
the whole concern. It's the commerce of your country. 
And we want you badly. I tell you straight, I know 


my limitations. You could take this place, you could 
make it go ! I can see you at it — looking rather 
sour. Woosh is the word, George." 

And he smiled endearingly. 

"I got to dictate a letter," he said, ending the 
smile and vanished into the outer room. 


I didn't succumb without a struggle to my uncle's 
allurements. Indeed, I held out for a week while I 
contemplated life and my prospects. It was a crowded 
and muddled contemplation. It invaded even my sleep. 

My interview with the Registrar, my talk with my 
uncle, my abrupt discovery of the hopeless futility of 
my passion for Marion, had combined to bring me to a 
sense of crisis. AVhat was I goinu; to do with life ? 

I remember certain phases of my indecisions very 

I remember going home from our talk. I went 
down Farringdon Street to the Embankment because 
I thought to go home by Holborn and Oxford Street 
would be too crowded for thinking. . . . That piece of 
Embankment from Blackfriars to Westminster still 
reminds me of that momentous hesitation. 

You know, from first to last, I saw the business 
with my eyes open, I saw its ethical and moral values 
quite clearly. Never for a moment do I remember 
myself faltering from my persuasion that the sale of 
Tono-Bungay was a thoroughly dishonest proceeding. 
The stuff was, I perceived, a mischievous trash, slightly 
stimulating, aromatic and attractive, likely to become 
a bad habit and train people in the habitual use of 


stronger tonics and insidiously dangerous to people 
with defective kidneys. It would cost about sevenpence 
the large bottle to make, including bottling, and we 
were to sell it at half a crown plus the cost of the 
patent medicine stamp. A thing that I will confess 
deterred me from the outset far more than the sense 
of dishonesty in this affair, was the supreme silliness 
of the whole concern. I still clung to the idea that 
the world of men was or should be a sane and just 
organization, and the idea that I should set myself 
gravely, just at the fine springtime of my life, to 
developing a monstrous bottling and packing ware- 
house, bottling rubbish for the consumption of foolish, 
credulous and depressed people had in it a touch of 
insanity. My early beliefs still clung to me. I felt 
assured that somewhere there must be a hitch in the 
fine prospect of ease and wealth under such conditions ; 
that somewhere, a little overgrown perhaps, but still 
traceable, lay a neglected, wasted path of use and 
honour for me. 

My inclination to refuse the whole thing increased 
rather than diminished at first as I went along the 
Embankment. In my uncle's presence there had been 
a sort of glamour that had prevented an outright 
refusal. It was a revival of affection for him I felt in 
his presence I think, in part, and in part an instinctive 
feeling that I must consider him as my host. But much 
more was it a curious persuasion he had the knack of 
inspiring — a persuasion not so much of his integrity 
and capacity as of the reciprocal and yielding foolish- 
ness of the world. One felt that he was silly and wild, 
but in some way silly and wild after the fashion of 
the universe. After all, one must live somehow. I 
astonished him and myself by temporizing. 


" No," said I, " Til think it over ! " 

And as I went along the Embankment, the first 
effect was all against my uncle. He shrank — for a 
little while he continued to shrink — in perspective 
until he was only a very small shabby little man in a 
dirty back street, sending off a few hundred bottles of 
rubbish to foolish buyers. The great buildings on the 
right of us, the Inns and the School Board place — as 
it was then — Somerset House, the big hotels, the great 
bridges, Westminster's outlines ahead, had an effect of 
grey largeness that reduced him to the proportions of 
a busy blackbeetle in a crack in the floor. 

And then my eye caught the advertisements on the 
south side of " Sorbers Food," of " CracknelPs Ferric 
Wine," very bright and prosperous signs, illuminated 
at night, and I realized how astonishingly they looked 
at home there, how evidently part they were in the 
whole thing. 

I saw a man come charging out of Palace Yard — 
the policeman touched his helmet to him — with a hat 
and a bearing astonishingly like my uncle's. After all, 
— didn't Cracknell himself sit in the House? . . . 

Tono-Bungay shouted at me from a hoarding near 
Adelphi Terrace, I saw it afar off near Carfax Street, 
it cried out again upon me in Kensington High Street 
and burst into a perfect clamour, six or seven times 
1 saw it as I drew near my diggings. It certainly had 
an air of being something more than a dream. . . . 

Yes, I thought it over — thoroughly enough. . . . 
Trade rules the world. Wealth rather than trade ! 
The thing was true, and true too was my uncle's 
proposition that the quickest way to get wealth is to 
sell the cheapest thing possible in the dearest bottle. 
He was frightfully right after all. Pccunia non okt y -~ 


a Roman emperor said that. Perhaps my great heroes 
in Plutarch were no more than such men, fine now only 
because they are distant ; perhaps after all this Socialism 
to which I had been drawn was only a foolish dream, 
only the more foolish because all its promises were 
conditionally true. Morris and these others played 
with it wittingly ; it gave a zest, a touch of substance 
to their aesthetic pleasures. Never would there be good 
faith enough to bring such things about. They knew 
it; every one except a few young fools, knew it. As 
I crossed the corner of St. James'' Park wrapped in 
thought, I dodged back just in time to escape a prancing 
pair of greys. A stout, common-looking woman, very 
magnificently dressed, regarded me from the carriage 
with a scornful eye. " No doubt," thought I, " a pill- 
vendor's wife. . . ." 

Running through all my thoughts, surging out like 
a refrain, was my uncle's master-stroke, his admirable 
touch of praise ; " Make it all slick — and then make it 
Woosh. I know you can ! Oh ! I knoza you can ! " 

§ 4 

Ewart as a moral influence was unsatisfactory. I had 
made up my mind to put the whole thing before him, 
partly to see how he took it, and partly to hear how it 
sounded when it was said. I asked him to come and 
eat with me in an Italian place near Pan ton Street 
where one could get a curious, interesting, glutting sort 
of dinner for eighteen-pence. He came with a dis- 
concerting black-eye that he wouldn't explain. "Not 
so much a black-eye, 11 he said, " as the aftermath of a 
purple patch. . . . What's your difficulty ? w 


" I'll tell you with the salad," I said. 

But as a matter of fact I didn't tell him. I threw 
out that I was doubtful whether I ought to go into 
trade, or stick to teaching in view of my deepening 
socialist proclivities ; and he, warming with the unaccus- 
tomed generosity of a sixteen-penny Chianti, ran on 
from that without any farther inquiry as to my trouble. 

His utterances roved wide and loose. 

"The reality of life, my dear Ponderevo, 11 I 
remember him saying very impressively and punc- 
tuating with the nut-crackers as he spoke, " is Chro- 
matic Conflict . . . and Form. Get hold of that and 
let all these other questions go. The Socialist will tell 
you one sort of colour and shape is right, the Indi- 
vidualist another. What does it all amount to ? What 
docs it all amount to ? Noth'uio; ! I have no advice 
to give any one, none, — except to avoid regrets. Be 
yourself, — seek after such beautiful things as your own 
sense determines to be beautiful. And don't mind the 
headache in the morning. . . . For what, after all, is 
a morning, Ponderevo? It isn't like the upper part 
of a day ! " 

He paused impressively. 

" What Rot ! " I cried, after a confused attempt to 
apprehend him. 

" Isn't it ! And it's my bedrock wisdom in the 
matter ! Take it or leave it, my dear George ; take it 
or leave it." . . . He put down the nut-crackers out 
of my reach and lugged a greasy-looking note-book 
from his pocket. " Fra going to steal this mustard 
pot, 11 he said. 

I made noises of remonstrance. 

" Only as a matter of design. I've got to do an 
old beast's tomb. Wholesale grocer. I'll put it on his 


corners, — four mustard pots. I dare say he'd be glad 
of a mustard plaster now to cool him, poor devil, where 
he is. But anyhow, — here goes ! " 


It came to me in the small hours that the real 
moral touchstone for this great doubting of mind was 
Marion. I lay composing statements of my problem 
and imagined myself delivering them to her — and she, 
goddess-like and beautiful, giving her fine, simply- 
worded judgment. 

" You see, it's just to give one's self over to the 
Capitalistic System," I imagined myself saying in good 
socialist jargon ; " it's surrendering all one's beliefs. 
We may succeed, we may grow rich, but where would 
the satisfaction be ? " 

Then she would say, " No ! That wouldn't be right." 

" But the alternative is to wait ! " 

Then suddenly she would become a goddess. She 
would turn upon me frankly and nobly, with shining 
eyes, with arms held out. " No," she would say, " we 
love one another. Nothing ignoble shall ever touch 
us. We love one another. Why wait to tell each 
other that, dear? What does it matter that we are 
poor and may keep poor ? " . . . 

But indeed the conversation didn't go at all in that 
direction. At the sight of her my nocturnal eloquence 
became preposterous and all the moral values altered 
altogether. I had waited for her outside the door of 
the Persian-robe establishment in Kensington High 
Street and walked home with her thence. I remember 
how she emerged into the warm evening light and that 


she wore a brown straw hat that made her, for once, 
not only beautiful but pretty. 

" I like that hat," I said by way of opening ; and 
she smiled her rare delightful smile at me. 

" I love you, 11 I said in an undertone, as we jostled 
closer on the pavement. 

She shook her head forbiddingly, but she still 
smiled. Then — 

" Be sensible ! " 

The High Street pavement is too narrow and 
crowded for conversation and we were some way west- 
ward before we spoke again. 

" Look here, 11 I said ; " I want you, Marion. Don't 
you understand ? I want you. 11 

" Now ! " she cried warninglv. 

I do not know if the reader will understand how a 
passionate love, an immense admiration and desire, can 
be shot with a gleam of positive hatred. Such a gleam 
there was in me at the serene self-complacency of that 
" Now ! " It vanished almost before I felt it. I found 
no warning in it of the antagonisms latent between us. 

" Marion, 11 I said, " this isn't a trifling matter to 
me. I love you. I would die to get you. . . . Don't 
you care ? " 

" But what is the good ? M 

" You don't care ! " I cried. " You don't care 
a rap ! 11 

" You know I care, 11 she answered. " If I 

didn't If I didn't like you very much, should I 

let you come and meet me — go about with you?" 

" Well then," I said, "promise to marry me !" 

" If I do, what difference will it make ? " 

We were separated by two men carrying a ladder 
who drove between us unawares. 


"Marion," I asked when we got together again. 
" I tell you I want you to marry me." 

" We can't." 

"Why not?" 

" We can't marry-— in the street." 

" We could take our chance ! " 

"I wish you wouldn't go on talking like this. 
What w the good ? " 

She suddenly gave way to gloom. " It's no good 
marrying," she said. " One's only miserable. I've 
seen other girls. When one's alone one has a little 
pocket-money anyhow, one can go about a little. But 
think of being married and no money, and perhaps 
children — you can't be sure. . . ." 

She poured out this concentrated philosophy of her 
class and type in jerky uncompleted sentences, with 
knitted brows, with discontented eyes towards the west- 
ward glow — forgetful, it seemed, for a moment even 
of me. 

"Look here, Marion," I said abruptly, " what would 
you marry on ? " 

" What is the good ? " she began. 

" Would you marry on three hundred a year ? " 

She looked at me for a moment. " That's six 
pounds a week," she said. " One could manage on that, 

— easily. Smithie's brother No, he only gets two 

hundred and fifty. He married a typewriting girl." 

" Will you marry me if I get three hundred a year ? " 

She looked at me again, with a curious gleam of 

"IfT she said. 

I held out my hand and looked her in the eyes. 
" It's a bargain," I said. 

She hesitated and touched my hand for an instant. 


" It's silly," she remarked as she did so. " It means 
really we're " She paused. 

"Yes?" said I. 

"Engaged. You'll have to wait years. What good 
can it do you ? " 

" Not so many years, 11 I answered. 

For a moment she brooded. 

Then she glanced at me with a smile, half-sweet, 
half-wistful, that has stuck in my memory for ever. 

" I like you, 11 she said. " I shall like to be engaged 
to you. 11 

And, faint on the threshold of hearing, I caught 
her ventured " dear ! M It's odd that in writing this 
down my memory passes over all that intervened and 
I feel it all again, and once again I'm Marion's boyish 
lover taking great joy in such rare and little things. 


At last I went to the address my uncle had given 
me in Gower Street, and found my aunt Susan waiting 
tea for him. 

Directly I came into the room I appreciated the 
change in outlook that the achievement of Tono-Bungay 
had made almost as vividly as when I saw my uncle's 
new hat. The furniture of the room struck upon my 
eye as almost stately. The chairs and sofa were covered 
with chintz which gave it a dim remote flavour of 
Bladesover ; the mantel, the cornice, the gas pendant 
were larger and finer than the sort of thing I had 
grown accustomed to in London. And I was shown 
in by a real housemaid with real tails to her cap, and 
great quantities of reddish hair. There was my aunt 


too, looking bright and pretty, in a blue -patterned 
tea-wrap with bows that seemed to me the quintessence 
of fashion. She was sitting in a chair by the open 
window with quite a pile of yellow-labelled books on 
the occasional table beside her. Before the large, paper- 
decorated fireplace stood a three-tiered cake-stand dis- 
playing assorted cakes, and a tray with all the tea 
equipage except the teapot, was on the large central 
table. The carpet was thick, and a spice of adventure 
was given it by a number of dyed sheep-skin mats. 

" Hel-fo / " said my aunt as I appeared. " It's 
George ! " 

" Shall I serve the tea now, Mem ? " said the real 
housemaid, surveying our greetings coldly. 

"Not till Mr. Ponderevo comes, Meggie," said my 
aunt, and grimaced with extraordinary swiftness and 
virulence as the housemaid turned her back. 

" Meggie, she calls herself, 1 "' said my aunt as the 
door closed, and left me to infer a certain want of 

" You're looking very jolly, aunt, 11 said I. 

"What do you think of all this old Business he's 
got ? " asked my aunt. 

" Seems a promising thing, 11 I said. 

" I suppose there is a business somewhere ? 11 

" Haven't you seen it ? " 

" Traid I'd say something at it, George, if I did. 
So he won't let me. It came on quite suddenly. 
Brooding he was and writing letters and sizzling some- 
thing awful — like a chestnut going to pop. Then he 
come home one day saying Tono-Bungay till I thought 
he was clean off his onion, and singing — what was it ? " 

" ' I'm afloat, I'm afloat, 1 " I guessed. 

" The very thing. You've heard him. And saying 


our fortunes were made. Took me out to the Ho'born 
Restaurant, George, — dinner, and we had champagne, 
stuff that blows up the back of your nose and makes 
you go »Sb, and he said at last he'd got things worthy 
of me — and we moved here next day. It's a swell 
house, George. Three pounds a week for the rooms. 
And he says the Business "11 stand it. ,, 

She looked at me doubtfully. 

" Either do that or smash, 11 I said profoundly. 

We discussed the question for a moment mutely 
with our eyes. My aunt slapped the pile of books 
from Mudie's. 

"I've been having such a Go of reading, George. 
You never did ! " 

" What do you think of the business ? " I asked. 

" Well, they've let him have money,"" she said, and 
thought and raised her eyebrows. 

" It's been a time, 1 '' she went on. " The flapping 
about! Me sidding doing nothing and him on the 
go like a rocket. He's done wonders. But he wants 
you, George — he wants you. Sometimes he's full of 
hope — talks of when we're going to have a carriage and 
be in society — makes it seem so natural and topsy- 
turvy, I hardly know whether my old heels aren't up 
here listening to him, and my old head on the floor. . . . 
Then he gets depressed. Says he wants restraint. Says 
he can make a splash but can't keep on. Says if you 

don't come in everything will smash But you are 

coming in ? " 

She paused and looked at me. 

«Well " 

" You don't say you won't come in ! " 

" But look here, aunt," I said, " do you understand 
quite ? . . . It's a quack medicine. It's trash." 



" There's no law against selling quack medicine that 
I know of," said my aunt. She thought for a minute 
and became unusually grave. "It's our only chance, 
George,'" she said. " If it doesn't go. . . ." 

There came the slamming of a door, and a loud 
bellowing from the next apartment through the folding 
doors. " Here — er Shee Ruflc lies Poo Tom Bo — oling." 

" Silly old Concertina ! Hark at him, George ! " 
She raised her voice. " Don't sing that, you old 
Walrus you ! Sing * Fm afloat ! ' " 

One leaf of the folding doors opened and my uncle 

" Hullo, George ! Come along at last ? Gossome 
tea-cake, Susan ? " 

" Thought it over, George ? " he said abruptly. 

" Yes, 11 said I. 

« Coming in ? " 

I paused for a last moment and nodded yes. 

" Ah ! " he cried. " Why couldn't you say that 
a week ago ? " 

" I've had false ideas about the world," I said. . . . 
" Oh ! they don't matter now ! Yes, I'll come, I'll take 
my chance with you, I won't hesitate again." 

And I didn't. I stuck to that resolution for seven 
long years. 



§ 1 

So I made my peace with my uncle and we set out 
upon this bright enterprise of selling slightly injurious 
rubbish at one-and-three-halfpence and two-and-nine a 
bottle, including the Government stamp. We made 
Tono- Bungay hum ! It brought us wealth, influence^ 
respect, the confidence of endless people. All that my 
uncle promised me proved truth and understatement ; 
Tono- Bungay carried me to freedoms and powers that 
no life of scientific research, no passionate service of 
humanity could ever have given me. . . . 

It was my uncle's genius that did it. No doubt he 
needed me, — I was, I will admit, his indispensable right 
hand ; but his was the brain to conceive. He wrote 
every advertisement; some of them even he sketched. 
You must remember that his were the days before the 
Times took to enterprise and the vociferous hawking of 
that antiquated Encychpsedia. That alluring, button- 
holeing, let -me- just- tell -you-quite-soberly-something- 
you-ought-to-know style of newspaper advertisement, 
with every now and then a convulsive jump of some 
attractive phrase into capitals, was then almost a 
novelty. "Many people who are moderately well 



think they are quite well," was one of his early efforts. 
The jerks in capitals were, "do not need drugs or 
medicine,' 1 and " simply a proper regimen to get you 
in tone. 11 One was warned against the chemist or 
druggist who pushed " much advertised nostrums " on 
one's attention. That trash did more harm than good. 
The thing needed was regimen — and Tono-Bungay ! 

Very early, too, was that bright little quarter 
column, at least it was usually a quarter column in the 
evening papers ; " hilarity — tono-bungay. Like Moun- 
tain Air in the Veins. 11 The penetrating trio of 
questions : " Are you bored with your Business ? Are 
you bored with your Dinner ? Are you bored with 
your Wife ? 11 — that too was in our Gower Street dajs. 
Both these we had in our first campaign when we 
worked London south, central, and west ; and then, too, 
we had our first poster, — the health, beauty, and 
strength one. That was his design ; I happen still 
to have got by me the first sketch he made for it. I 
have reproduced it here with one or two others to 
enable the reader to understand the mental quality 
that initiated these familiar ornaments of London. 
(The second one is about eighteen months later, the 
germ of the well-known " Fog " poster ; the third was 
designed for an influenza epidemic, but never issued.) 

These things were only incidentally in my depart- 
ment. I had to polish them up for the artist and 
arrange the business of printing and distribution, and 
after my uncle had had a violent and needless quarrel 
with the advertisement manager of the Daily Regulator 
about the amount of display given to one of his happy 
thoughts, I also took up the negotiation of advertise- 
ments for the press. 

We discussed and worked out distribution together 











r j 



1 84 


— first in the drawing-room floor in Gower Street with 
my aunt sometimes, helping very shrewdly, and then, 
with a steadily improving type of cigar and older and 
older whiskey, in his snuggery at their first house, the 
one in Beckenham. Often we worked far into the 
night — sometimes until dawn. 

We really worked infernally hard, and, I recall, 
we worked with a very decided enthusiasm, not simply 
on my uncle's part but mine. It was a game, an 
absurd but absurdly interesting game, and the points 
were scored in cases of bottles. People think a happy 
notion is enough to make a man rich, that fortunes 
can be made without toil. It's a dream, as every 
millionaire (except one or two lucky gamblers) can 
testify ; I doubt if J. D. Rockefeller in the early days 
of Standard Oil, worked harder than we did. We 
worked far into the night — and we also worked all day. 
We made a rule to be always dropping in at the 
factory unannounced to keep things right — for at first 
we could afford no properly responsible underlings — 
and we travelled London, pretending to be our own 
representatives and making all sorts of special arrange- 

But none of this was my special work, and as soon 
as we could get other men in, I dropped the travelling, 
though my uncle found it particularly interesting and 
kept it up for years. " Does me good, George, to see 
the chaps behind their counters like I was once," he 
explained. My special and distinctive duty was to 
give Tono- Bungay substance and an outward and visible 
bottle, to translate my uncle's great imaginings into 
the creation of case after case of labelled bottles of 
nonsense, and the punctual discharge of them by railway, 
road and steamer towards their ultimate goal in the 


Great Stomach of the People. By all modern standards 
the business was, as my uncle would say, " absolutely 
bond Jide."" We sold our stuff and got the money, and 
spent the money honestly in lies and clamour to sell 
more stuff. Section by section we spread it over the 
whole of the British Isles ; first working the middle- 
class London suburbs, then the outer suburbs, then the 
home counties, then going (with new bills and a more 
pious style of " ad ") into Wales, a great field always 
for a new patent-medicine, and then into Lancashire. 
My uncle had in his inner office a big map of England, 
and as we took up fresh sections of the local press and 
our consignments invaded new areas, flags for adver- 
tisements and pink underlines for orders showed our 

"The romance of modern commerce, George ! " my 
uncle would say, rubbing his hands together and draw- 
ing in air through his teeth. " The romance of modern 
commerce, eh ? Conquest. Province by province. 
Like sogers." 

We subj ugated England and Wales ; we rolled over 
the Cheviots with a special adaptation containing eleven 
per cent, of absolute alcohol ; " Tono-Bungay. Thistle 
Brand." We also had the Fog poster adapted to a 
kilted Briton in a misty Highland scene. 

Under the shadow of our great leading line we were 
presently taking subsidiary specialities into action ; 
" Tono-Bungay Hair Stimulant " was our first supple- 
ment. Then came " Concentrated Tono-Bungay " for 
the eyes. That didn't go, but we had a considerable 
success with the hair Stimulant. We broached the 
subject, I remember, in a little catechism beginning : 
" Why does the hair fall out ? Because the follicles 
are fagged. What are the follicles ? . . ." So it went 


on to the climax that the Hair Stimulant contained all 
" The essential principles of that most reviving tonic, 
Tono-Bungay, together with an emollient and nutritious 
oil derived from crude Neat's Foot Oil by a process of 
refinement, separation and deodorization. ... It will 
be manifest to any one of scientific attainments that in 
Neat's Foot Oil derived from the hoofs and horns of 
beasts, we must necessarily have a natural skin and 
hair lubricant." 

And we also did admirable things with our next 
subsidiaries, " Tono-Bungay Lozenges," and " Tono- 
Bungay Chocolate." These we urged upon the public 
for their extraordinary nutritive and recuperative value 
in cases of fatigue and strain. We gave them posters 
and illustrated advertisements showing climbers hang- 
ing from marvellously vertical cliffs, cyclist champions 
upon the track, mounted messengers engaged in Aix- 
to-Ghent rides, soldiers lying out in action under a 
hot sun. " You can GO for twenty-four hours," we 
declared, " on Tono-Bungay Chocolate." We didn't 
say whether you could return on the same commodity. 
We also showed a dreadfully barristerish barrister, wig, 
side-whiskers, teeth, a horribly life-like portrait of all 
existing barristers, talking at a table, and beneath, this 
legend : " A Four Hours 1 Speech on Tono-Bungay 
Lozenges, and as fresh as when he began." That 
brought in regiments of school-teachers, revivalist 
ministers, politicians and the like. I really do believe 
there was an element of "kick" in the strychnine in 
these lozenges, especially in those made according to our 
earlier formula. For we altered all our formulae — in- 
variably weakening them enormously as sales got ahead. 
In a little while — so it seems to me now — we were 
employing travellers and opening up Great Britain at 


the rate of a hundred square miles a day. All the 
organization throughout was sketched in a crude, en- 
tangled, half-inspired fashion by my uncle, and all of 
it had to be worked out into a practicable scheme of 
quantities and expenditure by me. We had a lot 
of trouble finding our travellers; in the end at least 
half of them were Irish- Americans, a wonderful breed 
for selling medicine. We had still more trouble over 
our factory manager, because of the secrets of the inner 
room, and in the end we got a very capable woman, 
Mrs. Hampton Diggs, who had formerly managed a 
large millinery workroom, whom we could trust to keep 
everything in good working order without finding out 
anything that wasn't put exactly under her loyal and 
energetic nose. She conceived a high opinion of Tono- 
Bungay and took it in all forms and large quantities 
so long as I knew her. It didn't seem to do her any 
harm. And she kept the girls going quite wonderfully. 

My uncle's last addition to the Tono-Bungay group 
was the Tono-Bungav Mouthwash. The reader has 
probably read a hundred times that inspiring inquiry 
of his, " You are Young Yet, but are you Sure Nothing 
has Aged your Gums ? " 

And after that we took over the agency for three 
or four good American lines that worked in with our 
own, and could be handled with it ; Texan Embrocation, 
and " 23 — to clear the system " were the chief. . . . 

I set down these bare facts. To me they are all 
linked with the figure of my uncle. In some of the 
old seventeenth and early eighteenth century prayer- 
books at Bladesover there used to be illustrations with 
long scrolls coming out of the mouths of the wood-cut 
figures. I wish I could write all this last chapter on a 
scroll coming out of the head of my uncle, show it all 


the time as unfolding and pouring out from a short, 
fattening, small-legged man with stiff cropped hair, 
disobedient glasses on a perky little nose, and a round 
stare behind them. I wish I could show you him 
breathing hard and a little through his nose as his pen 
scrabbled out some absurd inspiration for a poster or a 
picture page, and make you hear his voice, charged with 
solemn import like the voice of a squeaky prophet, say- 
ing, " George ! list'n ! I got an ideer. I got a notion, 
George ! " 

I should put myself into the same picture. Best 
setting for us, I think, would be the Beckenham snug- 
gery, because there we worked hardest. It would be the 
lamplit room of the early nineties, and the clock upon 
the mantel would indicate midnight or later. We would 
be sitting on either side of the fire, I with a pipe, my 
uncle with cigar or cigarette. There would be glasses 
standing inside the brass fender. Our expressions would 
be very grave. My uncle used to sit right back in his 
armchair ; his toes always turned in when he was sitting 
down and his legs had a way of looking curved, as 
though they hadn't bones or joints but were stuffed 
with sawdust. 

" George, whad'yer think of T.-B. for sea-sickness ? " 
he would say. 

" No good that I can imagine." 

" Oom I No harm trying, George. We can but 

I would suck my pipe. " Hard to get at. Unless 
we sold our stuff specially at the docks. Might do a 
special at Cook's office, or in the Continental Bradshaw. 11 

" It 'ud give 'em confidence, George. 11 

He would Zzzz, with his glasses reflecting the red 
of the glowing coals. 


" No good hiding our light under a Bushel," he 
would remark. . . . 

I never really determined whether my uncle regarded 
Tono-Bungay as a fraud, or whether he didn't come to 
believe in it in a kind of way by the mere reiteration 
of his own assertions. I think that his average attitude 
was one of kindly, almost parental, toleration. I re- 
member saying on one occasion, " But you don't suppose 
this stuff ever did a human being the slightest good at 
all ? '' and how his face assumed a look of protest, as of 
one reproving harshness and dogmatism. 

" You've a hard nature, George," he said. " You're 
too ready to run things down. How can one tell? 
How can one venture to tell? . . ." 

I suppose any creative and developing game would 
have interested me in those years. At any rate, I know 
I put as much zeal into this Tono-Bungay as any young 
lieutenant could have done who suddenly found himself 
in command of a ship. It was extraordinarily interest- 
ing to me to figure out the advantage accruing from 
this shortening of the process or that, and to weigh it 
against the capital cost of the alteration. I made a 
sort of machine for sticking on the labels, that I 
patented ; to this day there is a little trickle of royalties 
to me from that. I also contrived to have our mixture 
made concentrated, got the bottles, which all came 
sliding down a guarded slant-way, nearly filled with 
distilled water at one tap, and dripped our magic in- 
gredients in at the next. This was an immense economy 
of space for the inner sanctum. For the bottling we 
needed special taps, and these, too, I invented and 

We had a sort of endless band of bottles sliding 
along an inclined glass trough made slippery with 


running water. At one end a girl held them up to 
the light, put aside any that were imperfect and placed 
the others in the trough, the filling was automatic ; 
at the other end a girl slipped in the cork and drove 
it home with a little mallet. Each tank, the little one 
for the vivifying ingredients and the big one for dis- 
tilled water, had a level indicator, and inside I had a 
float arrangement that stopped the slide whenever 
either had sunk too low. Another girl stood ready 
with my machine to label the corked bottles and hand 
them to the three packers, who slipped them into their 
outer papers and put them, with a pad of corrugated 
paper between each pair, into a little groove from which 
they could be made to slide neatly into position in our 
standard packing-case. It sounds wild, I know, but I 
believe I was the first man in the city of London to 
pack patent medicines through the side of the packing- 
case, to discover there was a better way in than by the 
lid. Our cases packed themselves, practically ; had only 
to be put into position on a little wheeled tray and 
when full pulled to the lift that dropped them to the 
men downstairs, who padded up the free space and 
nailed on top and side. Our girls, moreover, packed 
with corrugated paper and matchbox-wood box parti- 
tions when everybody else was using expensive young 
men to pack through the top of the box with straw, 
many breakages and much waste and confusion. 


As I look back at them now, those energetic years 
seem all compacted to a year or so ; from the days of 
our first hazardous beginning in Farringdon Street 


with barely a thousand pounds 1 worth of stuff or credit 
all told — and that got by something perilously like 
snatching — to the days when my uncle went to the 
public on behalf of himself and me (one-tenth share) 
and our silent partners, the drug wholesalers and the 
printing people and the owner of that gi'oup of maga- 
zines and newspapers, to ask with honest confidence 
for dfl 50,000. Those silent partners were remarkably 
sorry, I know, that they had not taken larger shares 
and given us longer credit when the subscriptions came 
pouring in. My uncle had a clear half to play with 
(including the one-tenth understood to be mine). 

£1 50,000 — think of it ! — for the goodwill in a string 
of lies and a trade in bottles of mitigated water ! Do 
you realize the madness of the world that sanctions 
such a thing ? Perhaps you don't. At times use and 
wont certainly blinded me. If it had not been for 
Ewart, I don't think I should have had an inkling of 
the wonderfulness of this development of my fortunes ; 
I should have grown accustomed to it, fallen in with 
ail its delusions as completely as my uncle presently 
did. He was immensely proud of the flotation. 
" They've never been given such value, 11 he said, " for 
a dozen years. 11 But Ewart, with his gesticulating 
hairy hands and bony wrists, is single-handed chorus 
to all this as it plays itself over again in my memory, 
and he kept my fundamental absurdity illuminated for 
me during all this astonishing time. 

"It's just on all fours with the rest of things, 11 he 
remarked ; " only more so. You needn't think you're 
anything out of the way." 

I remember one disquisition very distinctly. It was 
just after Ewart had been to Paris on a mysterious 
expedition to " rough in " some work for a rising 


American sculptor. This young man had a commission 
for an allegorical figure of Truth (draped, of course) 
for his State Capitol, and he needed help. Ewart had 
returned with his hair cut en brosse and with his cos- 
tume completely translated into French. He wore, I 
remember, a bicycling suit of purplish-brown, baggy 
beyond imagining — the only creditable thing about it 
was that it had evidently not been made for him — a 
voluminous black tie, a decadent soft felt hat and 
several French expletives of a sinister description. 
" Silly clothes, aren't they ? " he said at the sight of 
my startled eye. " I don't know why I got 'm. They 
seemed all right over there." He had come down to 
our Raggett Street place to discuss a benevolent project 
of mine for a poster by him, and he scattered remark- 
able discourse over the heads (I hope it was over the 
heads) of our bottlers. 

" What I like about it all, Ponderevo, is its poetry. 
. . . That's where we get the pull of the animals. No 
animal would ever run a factory like this. Think ! . . . 
One remembers the Beaver, of course. He might very 
possibly bottle things, but would he stick a label round 
'em and sell 'em ? The Beaver is a dreamy fool I'll 
admit, him and his dams, but after all, there's a sort 
of protection about 'em, a kind of muddy practicality ! 
They prevent things getting at him. And it's not your 
poetry only. It's the poetry of the customer too. Poet 
answering to poet — soul to soul. Health, Strength and 
Beauty — in a bottle — the magic philtre ! Like a fairy 
tciic. ... 

" Think of the people to whom your bottles of footle 
go ! (I'm calling it footle, Ponderevo, out of praise," 
he said in parenthesis.) 

"Think of the little clerks and jaded women and 


overworked people. People overstrained with wanting 
to do, people overstrained with wanting to be. . . . 
People, in fact, overstrained. . . . The real trouble of 
life, Ponderevo, isn't that we exist — that's a vulgar 
error ; the real trouble is that we dont really exist and 
we want to. That's what this — in the highest sense — 
muck stands for ! The hunger to be — for once — really 
alive — to the finger tips ! . . . 

" Nobody wants to do and be the things people are 
— nobody. You don't want to preside over this — this 
bottling, / don't want to wear these beastly clothes and 
be led about by you, nobody wants to keep on sticking 
labels on silly bottles at so many farthings a gross. 
That isn't existing ! That's — sus — substratum. None 
of us want to be what we ai'e, or to do what we do. 
Except as a sort of basis. What do we want ? You 
know. / know. Nobody confesses. What we all want 
to be is something perpetually young and beautiful — 
young Joves — young Joves, Ponderevo " — his voice be- 
came loud, harsh and declamatory — " pursuing coy 
half-willing nymphs through everlasting forests . . ." 

There was a just-perceptible listening hang in the 
work about us. 

" Come downstairs," I interrupted, " we can talk 
better there." 

" I can talk better here," he answered. 

He was just going on, but fortunately the im- 
placable face of Mrs. Hampton Diggs appeared down 
the aisle of bottling machines. 

" All right," he said, " I'll come." . . . 

In the little sanctum below, my uncle was taking 
a digestive pause after his lunch and by no means 
alert. His presence sent Ewart back to the theme of 
modern commerce, over the excellent cigar my uncle 



gave him. He behaved with the elaborate deference 
due to a business magnate from an unknown man. 

"What I was pointing out to your nephew, sir, 1 " 
said Ewart, putting both elbows on the table, " was 
the poetry of commerce. He doesn't, you know, seem 
to see it at all." 

My uncle nodded brightly. " Whad I tell 'im," 
he said round his cigar. 

" You are artists. You and I, sir, can talk, if you 
will permit me, as one artist to another. It's advertise- 
ment has — done it. Advertisement has revolutionized 
trade and industry ; it is going to revolutionize the 
world. The old merchant used to tote about com- 
modities; the new one creates values. Doesn't need 
to tote. He takes something that isn't worth anything 
— or something that isn't particularly worth anything, 
and he makes it worth something. He takes mustard 
that is just like anybody else's mustard, and he goes 
about saying, shouting, singing, chalking on walls, 
writing inside people's books, putting it everywhere, 
'Smith's Mustard is the Best.' And behold it is the 
Best ! " 

" True," said my uncle, chubbily and with a dreamy 
sense of mysticism ; " true ! " 

" It's just like an artist, he takes a lump of white 
marble on the verge of a lime-kiln, he chips it about, 
he makes — he makes a monument to himself — and 
others — a monument the world will not willingly let 
die. Talking of mustard, sir, I was at Clapham 
Junction the other day, and all the banks are over- 
grown with horseradish that's got loose from a garden 
somewhere. You know what horseradish is — grows 
like wildfire — spreads — spreads. I stood at the end of 
the platform looking at the stuff and thinking about 


it. 'Like fame, 1 I thought, 'Rank and wild where it 
isn't wanted. Why don't the really good things in life 
grow like horseradish ? ' I thought. My mind went off 
in a peculiar way it does from that to the idea that 
mustard costs a penny a tin — I bought some the other 
day for a ham I had. It came into my head that it 
would be ripping good business to use horseradish to 
adulterate mustard. I had a sort of idea that I could 
plunge into business on that, get rich and come back 
to my own proper monumental art again. And then 
I said, 'But why adulterate? I don't like the idea of 
adulteration.' " 

" Shabby," said my uncle, nodding his head. " Bound 
to get found out ! " 

" And totally unnecessary too ! Why not do up a 
mixture — three-quarters pounded horseradish and a 
quarter mustard — give it a fancy name — and sell it at 
twice the mustard price. See ? I very nearly started 
the business straight away, only something happened. 
My train came along. 11 

"Jolly good ideer, 11 said my uncle. He looked at 
me. " That really is an ideer, George, 11 he said. 

"Take shavin's, again ! You know that poem of 
Longfellow's, sir, that sounds exactly like the first 
declension. What is it ? — ' man's a maker men say ! 1 " 

My uncle nodded and gurgled some quotation that 
died away. 

"Jolly good poem, George," he said in an aside 
to me. 

" Well, it's about a carpenter and a poetic Victorian 
child, you know, and some shavin's. The child made 
no end out of the shavin 1 s. So might you. Powder 
'em. They might be anything. Soak 'em in jipper, — 
Xylo-tobacco ! Powder 'em and get a little tar and 


turpentinous smell in, — wood-packing for hot baths — 
a Certain Cure for the scourge of Influenza ! There's 
all these patent grain foods, — what Americans call 
cereals. I believe I'm right, sir, in saying they're 

" No ! " said my uncle, removing his cigar ; " as far 
as I can find out it's really grain, — spoilt grain. . . . 
I've been going into that." 

" Well, there you are ! " said Ewart. " Say it's 
spoilt grain. It carried out my case just as well. 
Your modern commerce is no more buying and 
selling than — sculpture. It's mercy — it's salvation. 
It's rescue work ! It takes all sorts of fallen com- 
modities by the hand and raises them. Cana isn't in 
it. You turn water — into Tono-Bungay." 

" Tono-Bungay 's all right,'* said my uncle, suddenly 
grave. " We aren't talking of Tono-Bun^av." 

" Your nephew, sir, is hard ; he wants everything 
to go to a sort of predestinated end ; he's a Calvinist of 
Commerce. Offer him a dustbin full of stuff; he calls 
it refuse — passes by on the other side. Now you, sir — 
you'd make cinders respect themselves." 

My uncle regarded him dubiously for a moment. 
But there was a touch of appreciation in his eye. 

" Might make 'em into a sort of sanitary brick," 
he reflected over his cigar end. 

" Or a friable biscuit. Why not ? You might 
advertise : i Why are Birds so Bright ? Because they 
digest their food perfectly ! Why do they digest their 
food so perfectly ? Because they have a gizzard ! Why 
hasn't man a gizzard ? Because he can buy Ponderevo's 
Ashpit Triturating, Friable Biscuit — Which is Better.' " 

He delivered the last words in a shout with his 
hairy hand flourished in the air. . . . 


" Damn clever fellow, 11 said my uncle, after he had 
gone. "I know a man when I see one. He'll do. 
Bit drunk, I should say. But that only makes some 
chaps brighter. If he wants to do that poster, he can. 
Zzzz. That ideer of his about the horseradish. There's 
something in that, George. I'm going to think over 
that. . . ." 

I may say at once that my poster project came to 
nothing in the end, though Ewart devoted an interesting 
week to the matter. He let his unfortunate disposition 
to irony run away with him. He produced a picture 
of two Beavers with a subtle likeness, he said, to myself 
and my uncle — the likeness to my uncle certainly 
wasn't half bad — and they were bottling rows and rows 
of Tono-Bungay, with the legend " Modern Commerce. 11 
It certainlv wouldn't have sold a case, though he urged 
it on me one cheerful evening on the ground that it 
would "arouse curiosity. 11 In addition he produced a 
quite shocking study of my uncle, excessively and need- 
lessly nude but, so far as I was able to judge, an 
admirable likeness, engaged in feats of strength of a 
Gargantuan type before an audience of deboshed and 
shattered ladies. The legend, " Health, Beauty, 
Strength " below, gave a needed point to his parody. 
This he hung up in the studio over the oil shop, with 
a flap of brown paper by way of a curtain over it to 
accentuate its libellous offence. 



§ 1 

As I look back on those days in which we built up the 
great Tono-Bungay property out of human hope and 
a credit for bottles and rent and printing, I see my life 
as it were arranged in two parallel columns of unequal 
width, a wider, more diffused, eventful and various one 
which continually broadens out, the business side of 
my life, and a narrow, darker and darkling one shot 
ever and again with a gleam of happiness, my home 
life with Marion. For of course I married Marion. 

I didn't, as a matter of fact, marry her until a year 
after Tono-Bungay was thoroughly afloat, and then 
only after conflicts and discussions of a quite strenuous 
sort. By that time I was twenty-four. It seems the 
next thing to childhood now. We were both in certain 
directions unusually ignorant and simple; we were 
temperamentally antagonistic, and we hadn't — I don't 
think we were capable of — an idea in common. She 
was young and extraordinarily conventional — she seemed 
never to have an idea of her own but always the idea 
of her class — and I was young and sceptical, enter- 
prising and passionate ; the two links that held us 
together were the intense appeal her physical beauty 



had for me, and her appreciation of her importance in 
my thoughts. There can be no doubt of my passion 
for her. In her I had discovered woman desired. The 
nights I have lain awake on account of her, writhing, 
biting my wrists in a fever of longing ! . . . 

I have told how I got myself a silk hat and black 
coat to please her on Sunday — to the derision of some 
of my fellow-students who chanced to meet me — and 
how we became engaged. But that was only the 
beginning of our differences. To her that meant the 
beginning of a not unpleasant little secrecy, an occa- 
sional use of verbal endearments, perhaps even kisses. 
It was something to go on indefinitely, interfering in 
no way with her gossiping spells of work at SmitlnVs. 
To me it was a pledge to come together into the utmost 
intimacy of soul and body so soon as we could contrive 

It* * « • 

I don't know if it will strike the reader that I am 
setting out to discuss the queer unwise love relationship 
and my bungle of a marriage with excessive solemnity. 
But to me it seems to reach out to vastly wider issues 
than our little personal affair. Fve thought over my 
life. In these last few years Fve tried to get at 
least a little wisdom out of it. And in particular Fve 
thought over this part of my life. I'm enormously 
impressed by the ignorant, unguided way in which we 
two entangled ourselves with each other. It seems to 
me the queerest thing in all this network of misunder- 
standings and misstatements and faulty and ramshackle 
conventions which makes up our social order as the 
individual meets it, that we should have come together 
so accidentally and so blindly. Because we were no 
more than samples of the common fate. Love is not 
only the cardinal fact in the individual life, but the 


most important concern of the community ; after all, 
the way in which the young people of this generation 
pair off' determines the fate of the nation ; all the other 
affairs of the State are subsidiary to that. And we 
leave it to flushed and blundering youth to stumble on 
its own significance, with nothing to guide it but 
shocked looks and sentimental twaddle and base 
whisperings and cant-smeared examples. 

I have tried to indicate something of my own 
sexual development in the preceding chapter. Nobody 
was ever frank and decent with me in this relation, 
nobody, no book, ever came and said to me thus and 
thus is the world made and so and so is necessary. 
Everything came obscurely, indefinitely, perplexingly ; 
and all I knew of law or convention in the matter had 
the form of threatenings and prohibitions. Except 
through the furtive, shameful talk of my coevals at 
Goudhurst and Wimblehurst, I was not even warned 
against quite horrible dangers. My ideas were made 
partly of instinct, partly of a romantic imagination, 
partly woven out of a medley of scraps of suggestion 
that came to me haphazard. I had read widely and 
confusedly : " Vathek," Shelley, Tom Paine, Plutarch, 
Carlyle, Haeckel, William Morris, the Bible, the 
Freethinker, the Clarion, " The Woman Who Did,"— 
I mention the ingredients that come first to mind. 
All sorts of ideas were jumbled up in me and never 
a lucid explanation. But it was evident to me that 
the world regarded Shelley, for example, as a very 
heroic as well as beautiful person ; and that to defy 
convention and succumb magnificently to passion was 
the proper thing to do to gain the respect and affection 
of all decent people. 

And the make-up of Marion's mind in the matter 


was an equally irrational affair. Her training had been 
one not simply of silences, but suppressions. An enor- 
mous force of suggestion had so shaped her that the 
intense natural fastidiousness of girlhood had developed 
into an absolute perversion of instinct. For all that 
is cardinal in this essential business of life she had one 
inseparable epithet — " horrid. 11 Without any such 
training she would have been a shy lover, but now she 
was an impossible one. For the rest she had derived, 
I suppose, partly from the sort of fiction she got from 
the Public Library, and partly from the work-room 
talk at Smithie 1 s. So far as the former origin went, 
she had an idea of love as a state of worship and service 
on the part of the man and of condescension on the 
part of the woman. There was nothing " horrid " about 
it in any fiction she had read. The man gave presents, 
did services, sought to be in every way delightful. The 
woman "went out" with him, smiled at him, was kissed 
by him in decorous secrecy, and if he chanced to offend, 
denied her countenance and presence. Usually she did 
something "for his good 11 to him, made him go to 
church, made him give up smoking or gambling, 
smartened him up. Quite at the end of the story came 
a marriage, and after that the interest ceased. 

That was the tenor of Marion's fiction ; but I think 
the work-table conversation at Smithie's did something 
to modify that. At Smithie's it was recognized, I think, 
that a " fellow n was a possession to be desired ; that it 
was better to be engaged to a fellow than not ; that 
fellows had to be kept — they might be mislaid, they 
might even be stolen. There was a case of stealing at 
SmitluVs, and many tears. 

Smithie I met before we were married, and afterwards 
she became a frequent visitor to our house at Ealing. 


She was a thin, bright-eyed, hawk-nosed girl of thirty- 
odd, with prominent teeth, a high-pitched, eager voice, 
and a disposition to be urgently smart in her dress. 
Her hats were startling and various but invariably 
disconcerting, and she talked in a rapid, nervous flow 
that was hilarious rather than witty, and broken by 
little screams of "Oh my dear!" and "You never 
did ! M She was the first woman I ever met who used 
scent. Poor old Smithie ! What a harmless, kindly 
soul she really was, and how heartily I detested her ! 
Out of the profits on the Persian robes she supported 
a sister's family of three children, she "helped 11 a 
worthless brother and overflowed in help even to her 
workgirls, but that didn't weigh with me in those 
youthfully-narrow times. It was one of the intense 
minor irritations of my married life that Smithie's 
whirlwind chatter seemed to me to have far more 
influence with Marion than anything I had to say. 
Before all things I coveted her grip upon Marion's 
inaccessible mind. 

In the work-room at Smithie's, I gathered, they 
always spoke of me demurely as " A Certain Person. 11 
I was rumoured to be dreadfully "clever, 11 and there 
were doubts — not altogether without justification — of 
the sweetness of my temper. 

§ 2 

Well, these general explanations will enable the 
reader to understand the distressful times we two had 
together \vhen presently I began to feel on a footing 
with Marion and to fumble conversationally for the 
mind and the wonderful passion I felt, obstinately and 


stupidly, must be in her. I think she thought me the 
maddest of sane men; "clever," in fact, which at 
Smithie's was, I suppose, the next thing to insanity, a 
word intimating incomprehensible and incalculable 
motives. . . . 

She could be shocked at anything, she misunder- 
stood everything, and her weapon was a sulky silence 
that knitted her brows, spoilt her mouth and robbed 
her face of beauty. " Well, if we can't agree, I don't 
see why you should go on talking," she used to say. 
That would always enrage me beyond measure. Or, 
" I'm afraid I'm not clever enough to understand that." 

Silly little people ! I see it all now, but then I was 
no older than she and I couldn't see anything but that 
Marion, for some inexplicable reason, wouldn't come 

We would contrive semi-surreptitious walks on 
Sunday, and part speechless with the anger of indefinable 
offences. Poor Marion ! The things I tried to put 
before her, my fermenting ideas about theology, about 
Socialism, about aesthetics — the very words appalled 
her, gave her the faint chill of approaching impropriety, 
the terror of a very present intellectual impossibility. 
Then by an enormous effort I would suppress myself 
for a time and continue a talk that made her happy, 
about Smithie's brother, about the new girl who had 
come to the workroom, about the house we would 
presently live in. But there we differed a little. I 
wanted to be accessible to St. Paul's or Cannon Street 
Station, and she had set her mind quite resolutely upon 
Ealing. ... It wasn't by any means quarrelling all 
the time, you understand. She liked me to .play the 
lover "nicely;" she liked the effect of going about — 
we had lunches, we went to Earl's Court, to Kew, to 


theatres and concerts, but not often to concerts because, 
though Marion "liked" music, she didn't like "too 
much of it, 11 to picture shows — and there was a non- 
sensical sort of baby-talk I picked up — I forget where 
now — that became a mighty peacemaker. 

Her worst offence for me was an occasional excursion 
into the Smithie style of dressing, debased West Ken- 
sington. For she had no sense at all of her own beauty. 
She had no comprehension whatever of beauty of the 
body, and she could slash her beautiful lines to rags 
with hat-brims and trimmings. Thank Heaven a 
natural refinement, a natural timidity and her ex- 
tremely slender purse kept her from the real Smithie 
efflorescence! Poor simple, beautiful, kindly, limited 
Marion ! Now that I am forty-five, I can look back at 
her with all my old admiration and none of my old 
bitterness, with a new affection and not a scrap of pas- 
sion, and take her part against the equally stupid * 
drivingly-energetic, sensuous, intellectual sprawl I used 
to be. I was a young beast for her to have married 
— a young beast. With her it was my business to 
understand and control — and I exacted fellowship, 
passion. . . . 

We became engaged, as I have told; we broke it 
off and joined again. We went through a succession 
of such phases. We had no sort of idea what was 
wrong with us. Presently we were formally engaged. 
I had a wonderful interview with her father in which 
he was stupendously grave and 7*-less, wanted to know 
about my origins and was tolerant (exasperatingly 
tolerant) because my mother was a servant, and after- 
wards her mother took to kissing me and I bought a 
ring. But the speechless aunt, I gathered, didn't 
approve — having doubts of my religiosity. Whenever 


we were estranged we could keep apart for days ; and 
to begin with, every such separation was a relief. And 
then I would want her ; a restless longing would come 
upon me. I would think of the flow of her arms, of the 
soft gracious bend of her body. I would lie awake or 
dream of a transfigured Marion of light and fire. It 
was indeed Dame Nature driving me on to womankind 
in her stupid, inexorable way ; but I thought it was the 
need of Marion that troubled me. So I always went 
back to Marion at last and made it up and more or less 
conceded or ignored whatever thing had parted us, and 
more and more I urged her to marry me. . . . 

In the long run that became a fixed idea. It en- 
tangled my will and my pride, I told myself I was not 
going to be beaten. I hardened to the business. I 
think, as a matter of fact, my real passion for Marion 
had waned enormously long before we were married, 
that she had lived it down by sheer irresponsiveness. 
When I felt sure of my three hundred a year she 
stipulated for delay, twelve months" 1 delay, " to see how 
things would turn out.'' , There were times when she 
seemed simply an antagonist holding out irritatingly 
against something I had to settle. Moreover, I began 
to be greatly distracted by the interest and excitement 
of Tono-Bungay 1 s success, by the change and movement 
in things, the going to and fro. I would forget her 
for days together, and then desire her with an irritating 
intensity. At last, one Saturday afternoon, after a 
brooding morning I determined almost savagely that 
these delays must end. 

I went off to the little home at Walham Green, 
and made Marion come with me to Putney Common. 
Marion wasn't at home when I got there and I had to 
fret for a time and talk to her father, who was just 


back from his office, he explained, and enjoying himself 
in his own way in the greenhouse. 

" Fm going to ask your daughter to marry me, 11 I 
said. " I think we've been waiting long enough." 

" I don't approve of long engagements either,"" said 
her father. " But Marion will have her own way about 
it anyhow. Seen this new powdered fertilizer ? " 

I went in to talk to Mrs. Ramboat. " She'll want 
time to get her things,'' 1 said Mrs. Ramboat. . . . 

I and Marion sat down together on a little seat 
under some trees at the top of Putney Hill, and I came 
to my point abruptly. 

"Look here, Marion, 11 I said, "are you going to 
marry me or are you not ? " 

She smiled at me. " Well, 11 she said, " we're en- 
gaged — aren't we ? " 

" That can't go on for ever. Will you marry me 
next week ? 11 

She looked me in the face. " We can't, 11 she 

"You promised to many me when I had three 
hundred a year." 

She was silent for a space. " Can't we go on for a 
time as we are ? We could marry on three hundred 
a year. But it means a very little house. There's 
Smithie's brother. They manage on two hundred and 
fifty, but that's very little. She says they have a semi- 
detached house almost on the road, and hardly a bit 
of garden. And the wall to next-door is so thin, they 
hear everything. When her baby cries — they rap. And 
people stand against the railings and talk. . . . Can't 
we wait ? You're doing so well." 

An extraordinary bitterness possessed me at this 
invasion of the stupendous beautiful business of love 


by sordid necessity. I answered her with immense 

" If," I said, " we could have a double-fronted, 
detached house — at Ealing, say — with a square patch 
of lawn in front and a garden behind — and — and a 
tiled bath-room." 

" That would be sixty pounds a year at least." 

" Which means five hundred a year. . . . Yes, well, 
you see I told my uncle I wanted that, and I've got it." 

"Got what?" 

" Five hundred pounds a year." 

" Five hundred pounds ! " 

I burst into laughter that had more than a taste of 

" Yes," I said, "really ! and noxc what do you think?" 

" Yes," she said, a little flushed ; " but be sensible ! 
Do you really mean you've got a Rise, all at once, of 
two hundred a year ? " 

" To marry on — yes." 

She scrutinized me a moment. " You've done this 
as a surprise ! " she said, and laughed at my laughter. 
She had become radiant, and that made me radiant too. 

"Yes," I said, "yes," and laughed no longer bit- 
terly. She clasped her hands and looked me in the 

She was so pleased that I forgot absolutely my 
disgust of a moment before. I forgot that she had 
raised her price two hundred pounds a year and that 
I had bought her at that. 

" Come ! " I said, standing up ; " let's go towards 
the sunset, dear, and talk about it all. Do you know 
— this is a most beautiful world, an amazingly beautiful 
world, and when the sunset falls upon you it makes 
you into shining gold. No, not gold — into golden 


glass. . . . Into something better than either glass or 
gold." . . . 

And for all that evening I wooed her and kept her 
glad. She made me repeat my assurances over again 
and still doubted a little. 

We furnished that double-fronted house from attic 
— it ran to an attic — to cellar, and created a garden. 

"Do you know Pampas Grass?" said Marion, "I 
love Pampas Grass ... if there is room." 

" You shall have Pampas Grass," I declared. 

And there were moments as we went in imagination 
about that house together, when my whole being cried 
out to take her in my arms — now. But I refrained. 
On that aspect of life I touched very lightly in that 
talk, very lightly because I had had my lessons. 

She promised to marry me within two months 1 time. 
Shyly, reluctantly, she named a day, and next after- 
noon, in heat and wrath, we "broke it off" again for 
the last time. We split upon procedure. I refused 
flatly to have a normal wedding with wedding cake, 
white favours, carriages and the rest of it. It dawned 
upon me suddenly in conversation with her and her 
mother, that this was implied. I blurted out my 
objection forthwith, and this time it wasn't any ordi- 
nary difference of opinion ; it was a " row." I don't 
remember a quarter of the things we flung out in that 
dispute. I remember her mother reiterating in tones 
of gentle remonstrance : " But George dear, you must 
have a cake — to send round." I think we all reiterated 
things. I seem to remember a refrain of my own : " A 
marriage is too sacred a thing, too private a thing, for 
this display." Her father came in and stood behind 
me against the wall, and her aunt appeared beside the 
sideboard and stood with folded arms, looking from 


speaker to speaker, a sternly gratified prophetess. It 
didn't occur to me then how painful it was to Marion 
for these people to witness my rebellion. 

" But, George," said her father, " what sort of 
marriage do you want ? You don't want to go to one 
of those there registary offices ? " 

" That's exactly what I'd like to do. Marriage is 
too private a thing " 

" I shouldn't feel married, 11 said Mrs. Ramboat. 

" Look here, Marion," I said ; " we are going to 
be married at a registry office. I don't believe in all 
these — fripperies and superstitions, and I won't submit 
to them. I've agreed to all sorts of things to please 
you. 11 

" What's he agreed to ? " said her father — unheeded. 

"I can't marry at a registry office, 11 said Marion, 
sallow- white. 

" Very well, 11 I said. " I'll marry nowhere else." 

" I can't marry at a registry office. 11 

"Very well, 11 I said standing up, white and tense, 
and it amazed me, but I was also exultant ; " then we 
won't marry at all." 

She leant forward over the table, staring blankly 
at nothing. 

" I don't think we'd better," she said in a low tone ; 
" if its to be like this." 

" Its for you to choose," I said. I stood for a 
moment watching the cloud of sulky offence that veiled 
her beauty. 

" Its for you to choose," I repeated ; and regardless 
of the others, walked to the door, slammed it behind 
me and so went out of the house. 

"Thafs over," I said to myself in the road, and 
was full of a desolating sense of relief. . . . 


But presently her half-averted face began to haunt 
me as she had sat at the table, and her arm and the 
long droop of her shoulder. 


The next day I did an unexampled thing. I sent 
a telegram to my uncle, "Bad temper not corning to 
business" and set off for Highgate and Ewart. He 
was actually at work — on a bust of Millie, and seemed 
very glad for any interruption. 

" Ewart, you old Fool," I said, " knock off and 
come for a day's gossip. I'm rotten. There's a sym- 
pathetic sort of lunacy about you. Let's go to Staines 
and paddle up to Windsor." 

" Girl ? " said Ewart, putting down a chisel. 


That was all I told hiin of my affair. 

" I've got no money,"" he remarked, to clear up any 
ambiguity in my invitation. 

We got a jar of shandy-gaff, some food, and, on 
E wart's suggestion, two Japanese sunshades in Staines ; 
we demanded extra cushions at the boathouse and we 
spent an enormously soothing day in discourse and 
meditation, our boat moored in a shady place this side 
of Windsor. I seem to remember Ewart with a cushion 
forward, only his heels and sunshade and some black 
ends of hair showing, a voice and no more, against the 
shining, smoothly-streaming mirror of the trees and 

" It's not worth it," was the burthen of the voice. 

" You'd better get yourself a Millie, Ponderevo, and 
then you wouldn't feel so upset." 



" No," I said decidedly, " that's not my way.*" . . . 

A thread of smoke ascended from Ewart for a while, 
like smoke from an altar. . . . 

" Everything's a muddle, and you think it isn't. 
Nobody knows where we are — because, as a matter of 
fact, we aren't anywhere. Are women property — or 
are they fellow-creatures ? Or a sort of proprietary 
goddesses ? They're so obviously fellow-creatures. You 
believe in the goddess ? " 

" No," I said, " that's not my idea." 

" What is your idea ? " 

« Well " 

" H'm," said Ewart, in my pause. 

" My idea," I said, " is to meet one person who will 
belong to me — to whom I shall belong — body and soul. 
No half-gods ! Wait till she comes. If she comes at 
all. . . . We must come to each other young and pure." 

" There's no such thing as a pure person or an impure 
person. . . . Mixed to begin with." 

This was so manifestly true that it silenced me alto- 

" And if you belong to her and she to you, Pon- 
derevo — which end's the head ? " 

I made no answer except an impatient " Oh ! " 

For a time Ave smoked in silence. . . . 

"Did I tell you, Ponderevo, of a wonderful dis- 
covery I've made?" Ewart began presently. 

"No," I said, "what is it?" 

"There's no Mrs. Grundy." 


"No! Practically not. I've just thought all that 
business out. She's merely an instrument, Ponderevo. 
She's borne the blame. Grundy's a man. Grundy 
unmasked. Rather lean and out of sorts. Early 


middle age. With bunchy black whiskers and a 
worried eye. Been good so far, and it's fretting him ! 
Moods ! . . . There's Grundy in a state of sexual 
panic, for example, — ' For God's sake cover it up ! 
They get together — they get together ! It's too ex- 
citing ! The most dreadful things are happening ! ' 
Rushing about — long arms going like a windmill. 
' They must be kept apart ! ' Starts out for an abso- 
lute obliteration of everything — absolute separations. 
One side of the road for men, and the other for women, 
and a hoarding — without posters — between them. Every 
boy and girl to be sewn up in a sack and sealed, just 
the head and hands and feet out until twenty-one. 
Music abolished, calico garments for the lower animals ! 
Sparrows to be suppressed — ab-so-lutely." 

I laughed abruptly. 

" Well, that's Mr. Grundy in one mood — and it 

puts Mrs. Grundy She's a much maligned person, 

Ponderevo — a rake at heart — and it puts her in a most 
painful state of fluster — most painful ! She's an amen- 
able creature. When Grundy tells her things are 
shocking, she's shocked — pink and breathless. She goes 
about trying to conceal her profound sense of guilt 
behind a haughty expression. . . . 

" Grundy meanwhile is in a state of complete whirl- 
about. Long lean knuckly hands pointing and gesticu- 
lating ! ' They're still thinking of things — thinking of 
things ! It's dreadful ! They get it out of books. I 
can't imagine where they get it ! I must watch ! 
There're people over there whispering ! Nobody ought 
to whisper ! There's something suggestive in the mere 
act ! Then, pictures ! In the museums — things too 
dreadful for words. Why can't we have pure art — 
with the anatomy all wrong and pure and nice — and 


pure fiction, pure poetry, instead of all this stuff with 
allusions — allusions ? . . . Excuse me ! There's some- 
thing up behind that locked door ! The keyhole ! 
In the interests of public morality — yes, Sir, as a pure 
good man — I insist — Fll look — it won't hurt me — I 
insist on looking — my duty — M,m,m — the keyhole ! ' w 

He kicked his legs about extravagantly, and I 
laughed again. 

"That's Grundy in one mood, Ponderevo. It isn't 
Mrs. Grundy. That's one of the lies we tell about 
women. They're too simple. Simple ! Women are 
simple ! They take on just what men tell "em. . . ." 

Ewart meditated for a space. " Just exactly as it's 
put to them," he said, and resumed the moods of 
Mr. Grundy. 

"Then you get old Grundy in another mood. 
Ever caught him nosing, Ponderevo ? Mad with the 
idea of mysterious, unknown, wicked, delicious things. 
Things that aren't respectable. Wow ! Things he 
mustn't do ! . . . Any one who knows about these 
things, knows there's just as much mystery and 
deliciousness about Grundy's forbidden things as there 
is about eating ham. Jolly nice if it's a bright 
morning and you're well and hungry and having break- 
fast in the open air. Jolly unattractive if you're off 
colour. But Grundy's covered it all up and hidden 
it and put mucky shades and covers over it until he's 
forgotten it. Begins to fester round it in his mind. 
Has dreadful struggles with himself about impure 
thoughts. . . . Then you get Grundy with hot ears, — 
curious in undertones. Grundy on the loose, Grundy 
in a hoarse whisper and with furtive eyes and convulsive 
movements — making things indecent. Evolving — in 
dense vapours — indecency ! 


" Grundy sins. Oh yes, he's a hypocrite. Sneaks 
round a corner and sins ugly. It's Grundy and his 
dark corners that make vice, vice ! We artists — we 
have no vices. And then he's frantic with repentance. 
And wants to be cruel to fallen women and decent 
harmless sculptors of the simple nude- — like me — and 
so back to his panic again." 

"Mrs. Grundy, I suppose, doesn't know he sins," 
I remarked. 

" No ? I'm not so sure. . . . But, bless her heart ! 
she's a woman. . . . She's a woman. 

"Then again you get Grundy with a large greasy 
smile — like an accident to a butter tub — all over his 
face, being Liberal Minded — Grundy in his Anti- 
Puritan moments, 'trying not to see Harm in it' — 
Grundy the friend of innocent pleasure. He makes 
you sick with the Harm he's trying not to see in it. . . . 

" And that's why everything's wrong, Ponderevo. 
Grundy, damn him ! stands in the light, and we young 
people can't see. His moods affect us. We catch his 
gusts of panic, his disease of nosing, his greasiness. 
We don't know what we may think, what we may say. 
He does his silly utmost to prevent our reading and 
seeing the one thing, the one sort of discussion we find 
— quite naturally and properly — supremely interesting. 
So we don't adolesce ; we blunder up to sex. Dare — 
dare to look — and he may dirt you for ever ! The girls 
are terror stricken to silence by his significant whiskers, 
by the bleary something in his eyes." 

Suddenly Ewart, with an almost Jack-in-the-box 
effect, sat up. 

"He's about us everywhere, Ponderevo," he said 
very solemnly. " Sometimes — sometimes I think he is 
— in our blood. In mine.'''' 


He regarded me for my opinion very earnestly, 
with his pipe in the corner of his mouth. 

"You're the remotest cousin he ever had," I 
said. . . . 

I reflected. " Look here, Swart," I asked, " how 
would you have things different ? " 

He wrinkled up his queer face, regarded the water 
and made his pipe gurgle for a space, thinking deeply. 

"There are complications, I admit. We've grown 
up under the terror of Grundy and that innocent — but 
docile and — yes — formidable lady, his wife. I don't 
know how far the complications aren't a disease, a sort 
of bleaching under the Grundy shadow. ... It is 
possible there are things I have still to learn about 
women. . . . Man has eaten of the Tree of Knowledge. 
His innocence is gone. You can't have your cake and 
eat it. We're in for knowledge ; let's have it plain and 
straight. I should begin, I think, by abolishing the 
ideas of decency and indecency. . . ." 

"Grundy would have fits !" I injected. 

" Grundy, Ponderevo, would have cold douches — 
publicly — if the sight was not too painful — three times 
a day. . . . But I don't think, mind you, that I should 
let the sexes run about together. No. The fact be- 
hind the sexes — is sex. It's no good humbugging. It 
trails about — even in the best mixed company. Tugs at 
your ankle. The men get showing off and quarrelling 
— and the women. Or they're bored. I suppose the 
ancestral males have competed for the ancestral females 
ever since they were both some sort of grubby little 
reptile. You aren't going to alter that in a thousand 
years or so. . . . Never should you have a mixed com- 
pany, never — except with only one man or only one 
woman. How would that be ? . . . 


« Or duets only ? . . ." 

" How to manage it ? Some rule of etiquette, 
perhaps." . . . He became portentously grave. 

Then his long hand went out in weird gestures. 

"I seem to see — I seem to see — a sort of City of 
Women, Ponderevo. Yes. ... A walled enclosure 
— good stone-mason's work — a city wall, high as the 
walls of Rome, going about a garden. Dozens of 
square miles of garden — trees — fountains — arbours — 
lakes. Lawns on which the women play, avenues in 
which they gossip, boats. . . . Women like that sort 
of thing. Any woman who's been to a good eventful 
girls' school lives on the memory of it for the rest 
of her life. It's one of the pathetic things about 
women, — the superiority of school and college to any- 
thing they get afterwards. And this city-garden of 
women will have beautiful places for music, places 
for beautiful dresses, places for beautiful work. Every- 
thing a woman can want. Nurseries. Kindergartens. 
Schools. And no man — except to do rough work, 
perhaps — ever comes in. The men live in a world 
where they can hunt and engineer, invent and mine 
and manufacture, sail ships, drink deep and practise 
the arts, and fight " 

" Yes," I said ; " but- 

He stilled me with a gesture. 

" I'm coming to that. The homes of the women, 
Ponderevo, will be set in the wall of their city ; each 
woman will have her own particular house and home, 
furnished after her own heart in her own manner — with 
a little balcony on the outside wall. Built into the 
wall — and a little balcony. And there she will go and 
look out, when the mood takes her, and all round the 
city there will be a broad road and seats and great 


shady trees. And men will stroll up and down there 
when they feel the need of feminine company ; when, 
for instance, they want to talk about their souls or 
their characters or any of the things that only women 
will stand. . . . The women will lean over and look at 
the men and smile and talk to them as they fancy. 
And each woman will have this ; she will have a little 
silken ladder she can let down if she chooses — if she 
wants to talk closer. . . /" 

" The men would still be competing."" 

"There perhaps — yes. But they'd have to abide 
by the women's decisions." 

I raised one or two difficulties, and for a while we 
played with this idea. 

" Ewart," I said, " this is like Dolls 1 Island. . . ." 
" Suppose," I reflected, " an unsuccessful man laid siege 
to a balcony and wouldn't let his rival come near it ? " 

"Move him on," said Ewart, "by a special regula- 
tion. As one does organ-grinders. No difficulty about 
that. And you could forbid it — make it against the 
etiquette. No life is decent without etiquette. . . . 
And people obey etiquette sooner than laws. . . ." 

" Hm," I said, and was struck by an idea that is 
remote in the world of a young man. "How about 
children?" I asked; "in the City? Girls are all very 
well. But boys for example — grow up." 

" Ah ! " said Ewart. " Yes. I forgot. They mustn't 
grow up inside. . . . They'd turn out the boys when 
they were seven. The father must come with a little 
pony and a little gun and manly wear, and take the 
boy away. Then one could come afterwards to one's 
mother's balcony. ... It must be fine to have a 
mother. The father and the son. . . ." 

" This is all very pretty in its way," I said at last, 


" but it's a dream. Let's come back to reality. What 
I want to know is, what are you going to do in 
Brompton, let us say, or Walham Green now 1 " 

" Oh ! damn it ! " he remarked, " Walham Green ! 
What a chap you are, Ponderevo ! " and he made an 
abrupt end to his discourse. He wouldn't even reply 
to my tentatives for a time. . . . 

" While I was talking just now,"" he remarked pre- 
sently, " I had a quite different idea." 


"For a masterpiece. A series. Like the busts of 
the Caesars. Only not heads, you know. We don't 
see the people who do things to us nowadays. . . ." 

" How will you do it, then ? " 

" Hands — a series of hands ! The hands of the 
Twentieth Century. Til do it. Some day some one 
will discover it — go there — see what I have done, and 
what is meant by it." 

" See it where ? " 

" On the tombs. Why not ? The Unknown Master, 
of the Highgate Slope ! All the little, soft feminine 
hands, the nervous ugly males, the hands of the Hops, 
and the hands of the snatchers ! And Grundy's loose, 
lean, knuckly affair — Grundy the terror! — the little 
wrinkles and the thumb ! Only it ought to hold all 
the others together — in a slightly disturbing squeeze. . . . 
Like Rodin's great Hand — you know the thing ! " 

§ 4 

I forget how many days intervened between that 
last breaking off of our engagement and Marion's sur- 
render. But I recall now the sharpness of my emotion, 


the concentrated spirit of tears and laughter in my 
throat as I read the words of her unexpected letter — 
"I have thought over everything, and I was selfish. . . ." 

I rushed off to Walham Green that evening to give 
back all she had given me, to beat her altogether at 
giving. She was extraordinarily gentle and generous 
that time, I remember, and when at last I left her, she 
kissed me very sweetly. 

So we were married. 

We were married with all the customary incon- 
gruities. I gave — perhaps after a while not altogether 
ungrudgingly — and what I gave, Marion took, with a 
manifest satisfaction. After all, I was being sensible. 
So that we had three livery carriages to the church (one 
of the pairs of horses matched) and coachmen — with an 
improvised flavour and very shabby silk hats — bearing 
white favours on their whips, and my uncle intervened 
with splendour and insisted upon having a wedding- 
breakfast sent in from a caterer's in Hammersmith. 
The table had a great display of chrysanthemums, and 
there was orange blossom in the significant place and a 
wonderful cake. We also circulated upwards of a score 
of wedges of that accompanied by silver-printed cards 
in which Marion's name of Ramboat was stricken out 
by an arrow in favour of Ponderevo. We had a little 
rally of Marion's relations, and several friends and 
friends 1 friends from Smithie's appeared in the church 
and drifted vestry-ward. I produced my aunt and 
uncle — a select group of two. The effect in that shabby 
little house was one of exhilarating congestion. The 
sideboard, in which lived the table-cloth and the 
"Apartments' 1 card, was used for a display of the 
presents, eked out by the unused balance of the silver- 
printed cards. 


Marion wore the white raiment of a bride, white 
silk and satin, that did not suit her, that made her 
seem large and strange to me ; she obtruded bows and 
unfamiliar contours. She went through all this strange 
ritual of an English wedding with a sacramental gravity 
that I was altogether too young and egotistical to com- 
prehend. It was all extraordinarily central and im- 
portant to her; it was no more than an offensive, 
complicated, and disconcerting intrusion of a world I 
was already beginning to criticize very bitterly, to me. 
What was all this fuss for? The mere indecent ad- 
vertisement that I had been passionately in love with 
Marion ! I think, however, that Marion was only very 
remotely aware of my smouldering exasperation at 
having in the end behaved " nicely. 11 I had played-up 
to the extent of dressing my part ; I had an admirably 
cut frock-coat, a new silk hat, trousers as light as I 
could endure them — lighter, in fact — a white waist- 
coat, light tie, light gloves. Marion, seeing me de- 
spondent, had the unusual enterprise to whisper to me 
that I looked lovely ; I knew too well I didn't look 
myself. I looked like a special coloured supplement to 
MerCs Wear, or The Tailor and Cutter, Full Dress For 
Ceremonial Occasions. I had even the disconcerting 
sensations of an unfamiliar collar. I felt lost — in a 
strange body, and when I glanced down myself for 
reassurance, the straight white abdomen, the alien 
legs confirmed that impression. 

My uncle was my best man, and looked like a 
banker — a little banker — in flower. He wore a 
white rose in his buttonhole. He wasn't, I think, par- 
ticularly talkative. At least I recall very little from him. 

" George, 11 he said once or twice, " this is a great 
occasion for you — a very great occasion. 11 


He spoke a little doubtfully. 

You see I had told him nothing about Marion 
until about a week before the wedding ; both he and 
my aunt had been taken altogether by surprise. They 
couldn't, as people say, ' make it out. 1 My aunt was 
intensely interested, much more than my uncle ; it was 
then, I think, for the first time that I really saw that 
she cared for me. She got me alone, I remember, after 
I had made my announcement. "Now George, 1 "' she 
said, " tell me everything about her. Why didn't you 
tell me — me at least — before ? " 

I was surprised to find how difficult it was to tell 
her about Marion. I perplexed her. 

" Then is she beautiful ? " she asked at last. 

" I don't know what you'll think of her, 11 I parried. 
« I think " 

" Yes ? " 

"I think she might be the most beautiful person 
in the world. 11 

" And isn't she ? To you ? " 

" Of course,' 1 I said, nodding my head. " Yes. 
She is. . . ." 

And while I don't remember anything my uncle 
said or did at the wedding, I do remember very dis- 
tinctly certain little things, scrutiny, solicitude, a curious 
rare flash of intimacy in my aunt's eyes. It dawned on 
me that I wasn't hiding anything from her at all. She 
was dressed very smartly, wearing a big-plumed hat 
that made her neck seem longer and slenderer than 
ever, and when she walked up the aisle with that 
rolling stride of hers and her eye all on Marion, 
perplexed into self-forgetfulness, it wasn't somehow 
funny. She was, I do believe, giving my marriage more 
thought than I had done, she was concerned beyond 


measure at my black rage and Marion's blindness, she 
was looking with eyes that knew what loving is — for 

In the vestry she turned away as we signed, and 
I verily believe she was crying, though to this day I 
can't say why she should have cried, and she was near 
crying too when she squeezed my hand at parting — and 
she never said a word or looked at me, but just squeezed 
my hand. ... 

If I had not been so grim in spirit, I think I should 
have found much of my wedding amusing. I remember 
a lot of ridiculous detail that still declines to be funny, 
in my memory. The officiating clergyman had a cold, 
and turned his " n's " to " d's," and he made the most 
mechanical compliment conceivable about the bride's 
age when the register was signed. Every bride he had 
ever married had had it, one knew. And two middle- 
aged spinsters, cousins of Marion's and dressmakers at 
Barking, stand out. They wore marvellously bright 
and gay blouses and dim old skirts, and had an 
immense respect for Mr. Ramboat. They threw rice; 
they brought a whole bag with them and gave handsful 
away to unknown little boys at the church door and 
so created a Lilliputian riot, and one had meant to 
throw a slipper. It was a very worn old silk slipper 
I know, because she dropped it out of a pocket in the 
aisle — there was a sort of jumble in the aisle — and I 
picked it up for her. I don't think she actually threw 
it, for as we drove away from the church I saw her in 
a dreadful, and it seemed to me hopeless, struggle with 
her pocket ; and afterwards my eye caught the missile 
of good fortune lying, it or its fellow, most obviously 
mislaid, behind the umbrella-stand in the hall. . . . 

The whole business was much more absurd, more 


incoherent, more human than I had anticipated, and 
I was far too young and serious to let the latter quality 
atone for its shortcomings. I am so remote from 
this phase of my youth that I can look back at it all 
as dispassionately as one looks at a picture — at some 
wonderful, perfect sort of picture that is inexhaustible ; 
but at the time these things filled me with unspeakable 
resentment. Now I go round it all, look into its 
details, generalize about its aspects. Fm interested, 
for example, to square it with my Bladesover theory 
of the British social scheme. Under stress of tradition 
we were all of us trying in the fermenting chaos of 
London to carry out the marriage ceremonies of a 
Bladesover tenant or one of the chubby middling sort 
of people in some dependent country town. There a 
marriage is a public function with a public significance. 
There the church is to a large extent the gathering- 
place of the community, and your going to be married a 
thing of importance to every one you pass on the road. 
It is a change of status that quite legitimately interests 
the whole neighbourhood. But in London there are 
no neighbours, nobody knows, nobody cares. An 
absolute stranger in an office took my notice, and our 
banns were proclaimed to ears that had never pre- 
viously heard our names. The clergyman, even, who 
married us had never seen us before, and didn't in any 
degree intimate that he wanted to see us again. 

Neighbours in London ! The Ramboats did not 
know the names of the people on either side of them. 
As I waited for Marion before we started off upon our 
honeymoon flight, Mr. Ramboat, I remember, came and 
stood beside me and stared out of the window. 

" There was a funeral over there yestiday," he said 
by way of making conversation, and moved his head 


at the house opposite. " Quite a smart affair it was — 
with a glass "earse. . . ." 

And our little procession of three carriages with 
white-favour-adorned horses and drivers, went through 
all the huge, noisy, indifferent traffic like a lost china 
image in the coal-chute of an ironclad. Nobody made 
way for us, nobody cared for us ; the driver of an 
omnibus jeered ; for a long time we crawled behind an 
unamiable dust-cart. The irrelevant clatter and tumult 
gave a queer flavour of indecency to this public coming- 
together of lovers. We seemed to have obtruded our- 
selves shamelessly. The crowd that gathered outside 
the church would have gathered in the same spirit and 
with greater alacrity for a street accident. . . . 

At Charing Cross — we were going to Hastings — 
the experienced eye of the guard detected the signi- 
ficance of our unusual costume and he secured us a 

" Well," said I as the train moved out of the 
station, " Tliafs all over ! " And I turned to Marlon 
— a little unfamiliar still, in her unfamiliar clothes — 
and smiled. 

She regarded me gravely, timidly. 

" You're not cross ? " she asked. 

"Cross! Why?" 

" At having it all proper. 11 

" My dear Marion ! " said I, and by way of answer 
took and kissed her white-gloved, leather-scented 
hand. . . . 

I don't remember much else about the journey, an 
hour or so it was of undistinguished time — for we were 
both confused and a little fatigued and Marion had 
a slight headache and did not want caresses. I fell 
into a reverie about my aunt, and realized as if it 


were a new discovery, that I cared for her very greatly. 
I was acutely sorry I had not told her earlier of my 
marriage. . . . 

But you will not want to hear the history of my 
honeymoon. I have told all that was needed to serve 
my present purpose. Thus and thus it was the Will 
in things had its way with me. Driven by forces I did 
not understand, diverted altogether from the science, 
the curiosities and work to which I had once given 
myself, I fought my way through a tangle of traditions, 
customs, obstacles and absurdities, enraged myself, 
limited myself, gave myself to occupations I saw with 
the clearest vision were dishonourable and vain, and at 
last achieved the end of purblind Nature, the relentless 
immediacy of her desire, and held, far short of happiness, 
Marion weeping and reluctant in my arms. 


Who can tell the story of the slow estrangement 
of two married people, the weakening of first this bond 
and then that of that complex contact ? Least of all 
can one of the two participants. Even now, with an 
interval of fifteen years to clear it up for me, I still 
■find a mass of impressions of Marion as confused, as 
discordant, as unsystematic and self-contradictory as 
life. I think of this thing and love her, of that and 
hate her — of a hundred aspects in which I can now see 
her with an unimpassioned sympathy. As I sit here 
trying to render some vision of this infinitely confused 
process, I recall moments of hard and fierce estrange- 
ment, moments of unclouded intimacy, the passages of 


transition all forgotten. We talked a little language 
together when we were " friends," and I was " Mutney V 
and she was " Ming,"" and we kept up such an outward 
show that till the very end Smithie thought our 
household the most amiable in the world. 

I cannot tell to the full how Marion thwarted me 
and failed in that life of intimate emotions which is 
the kernel of love. That life of intimate emotions is 
made up of little things. A beautiful face differs from 
an ugly one by a difference of surfaces and proportions 
that are sometimes almost infinitesimallv small. I find 
myself setting down little things and little things ; 
none of them do more than demonstrate those essential 
temperamental discords I have already sought to make 
clear. Some readers will understand — to others I shall 
seem no more than an unfeeling brute who couldn't 
make allowances. . . . It's easy to make allowances 
now; but to be young and ardent and to make allow- 
ances, to see one's married life open before one, the life 
that seemed in its dawn a glory, a garden of roses, a 
place of deep sweet mysteries and heart throbs and 
wonderful silences, and to see it a vista of tolerations 
and baby-talk ! A compromise. The least effectual 
thing in all one's life. 

Every love romance I read seemed to mock our dull 
intercourse, every poem, every beautiful picture reflected 
upon the uneventful succession of grey hours we had 
together. I think our real difference was one of 
aesthetic sensibility. 

I do still recall as the worst and most disastrous 
aspect of all that time, her absolute disregard of her 
own beauty. It's the pettiest thing to record, I know, 
but she could wear curl-papers in my presence. It was 
her idea too, to " wear out " her old clothes and her 


failures at home when "no one was likely to see her" 
— " no one" being myself. She allowed me to accumu- 
late a store of ungracious and slovenly memories. . . . 

All our conceptions of life differed. I remember how 
we differed about furniture. We spent three or four days 
in Tottenham Court Road, and she chose the things 
she fancied with an inexorable resolution, — sweeping 
aside my suggestions with — " Oh, you want such queer 
things." She pursued some limited, clearly seen and 
experienced ideal — that excluded all other possibilities. 
Over every mantel was a mirror that was draped, our 
sideboard was wonderfully good and splendid with 
bevelled glass, we had lamps on long metal stalks and 
cosy corners and plants in grog-tubs. Smithie approved 
it all. There wasn't a place where one could sit and 
read in the whole house. My books went upon shelves 
in the dining-room recess. And we had a piano, 
though Marion's playing was at an elementary level. . . . 

You know, it was the cruellest luck for Marion that 
I, with my restlessness, my scepticism, my constantly 
developing ideas, had insisted upon marriage with her. 
She had no faculty of growth or change ; she had taken 
her mould, she had set in the limited ideas of her 
peculiar class. She preserved her conception of what 
was right in di*awing-room chairs and in marriage 
ceremonial and in every relation of life with a simple 
and luminous honesty and conviction, with an immense 
unimaginative inflexibility — as a tailor-bird builds its 
nest or a beaver makes its dam. 

Let me hasten over this history of disappointments 
and separation. I might tell of waxings and wanings 
of love between us, but the whole was waning. Some- 
times she would do things for me, make me a tie or a 
pair of slippers, and fill me with none the less gratitude 


because the things were absurd. She ran our home 
and our one servant with a hard, bright efficiency. 
She was inordinately proud of house and garden. 
Always, by her lights, she did her duty by me. . . . 

Presently the rapid development of Tono-Bungay 
began to take me into the provinces, and I would be 
away sometimes for a week together. This she did not 
like ; it left her " dull," she said, but after a time she 
began to go to Smithie\s again and to develop an 
independence of me. At Smithie's she was now a 
woman with a position ; she had money to spend. She 
would take Smithie to theatres and out to lunch and 
talk interminably of the business, and Smithie became 
a sort of permanent week-ender with us. Also Marion 
got a spaniel and began to dabble with the minor arts, 
with poker-work and a Kodak and hyacinths in glasses. 
She called once on a neighbour. Her parents left 
AValham Green — her father severed his connection with 
the gas-works — and came to live in a small house I 
took for them near us, and they were much with us. 

Odd the littleness of the things that exasperate 
when the fountains of life are embittered ! My father- 
in-law was perpetually catching me in moody moments 
and urging me to take to gardening. He irritated me 
beyond measure. 

"You think too much," he would say. "If you 
was to let in a bit with a spade, you might soon 'ave 
that garden of yours a Vision of Flowers. That's better 
than thinking, George." 

Or in a tone of exasperation, "I mrrit think, 
George, why you don't get a bit of glass 'ere. This 
sunny corner you c'd do wonders with a bit of glass.'" 

And in the summer time he never came in without 
performing a sort of conjuring trick in the hall, and 


taking cucumbers and tomatoes from unexpected points 
of his person. "All out o 1 my little bit," he'd say in 
exemplary tones. He left a trail of vegetable produce 
in the most unusual places, on mantelboards, side- 
boards, the tops of pictures. Heavens ! how the sudden 
unexpected tomato could annoy me ! . . . 

It did much to widen our estrangement that Marion 
and my aunt failed to make friends, became, by a sort 
of instinct, antagonistic. 

My aunt, to begin with, called rather frequently, 
for she was really anxious to know Marion. At first 
she would arrive like a whirlwind and pervade the 
house with an atmosphere of hello ! She dressed 
already with that cheerfully extravagant abandon that 
signalized her accession to fortune, and dressed her 
best for these visits. She wanted to play the mother 
to me, I fancy, to tell Marion occult secrets about the 
way I wore out my boots and how I never could think 
to put on thicker things in cold weather. But Marion 
received her with that defensive suspiciousness of the 
shy person, thinking only of the possible criticism of 
herself; and my aunt, perceiving this, became nervous 
and slangy. . . . 

" She says such queer things," said Marion once, 
discussing her. " But I suppose it's witty." 

" Yes," I said ; " it is witty." 

" If I said things like she does " 

The queer things my aunt said were nothing to the 
queer things she didn't say. I remember her in our 
drawing-room one day, and how she cocked her eye — 
ifs the only expression — at the India-rubber plant 
in a Doulton-ware pot which Marion had placed on 
the corner of the piano. 

She was on the very verge of speech. Then suddenly 


she caught my expression, and shrank up like a cat that 
has been discovered looking at the milk. 

Then a wicked impulse took her. 

"Didn't say an old word, George,' 1 she insisted, 
looking me full in the eye. 

I smiled. " You're a dear, 11 I said, " not to," as 
Marion came lowering into the room to welcome her. 
But I felt extraordinarily like a traitor — to the India- 
rubber plant, I suppose — for all that nothing had been 
said. . . . 

" Your aunt makes Game of people, 11 was Marion's 
verdict, and, open-mindedly ; "I suppose it's all right . . . 
for her. 11 

Several times we went to the house in Beckenham for 
lunch, and once or twice to dinner. My aunt did her 
peculiar best to be friends, but Marion was implacable. 
She was also, I know, intensely uncomfortable, and she 
adopted as her social method, an exhausting silence, 
replying compactly and without giving openings to any- 
thing that was said to her. 

The gaps between my aunt's visits grew wider and 
wider. . . . 

My married existence became at last like a narrow 
deep groove in the broad expanse of interests in which 
I was living. I went about the world ; I met a great 
number of varied personalities; I read endless books 
in trains as I went to and fro. I developed social re- 
lationships at my uncle's house that Marion did not 
share. The seeds of new ideas poured in upon me and 
grew in me. Those early and middle years of one's 
third decade are, I suppose, for a man the years of 
greatest mental growth. They are restless years and 
full of vague enterprise. 

Each time I returned to Ealing, life there seemed 


more alien, narrow, and unattractive — and Marion 
less beautiful and more limited and difficult — until 
at last she was robbed of every particle of her magic. 
She gave me always a cooler welcome, I think, until 
she seemed entirely apathetic. I never asked myself 
then what heartaches she might hide or what her 
discontents might be. I would come home hoping 
nothing, expecting nothing. This was my faded life 
and I had chosen it. I became more sensitive to the 
defects I had once disregarded altogether ; I began to 
associate her sallow complexion with her temperamental 
insufficiency, and the heavier lines of her mouth and 
nostril with her moods of discontent. We drifted 
apart; wider and wider the gap opened. I tired of 
baby-talk and stereotyped little fondlings ; I tired of 
the latest intelligence from those wonderful workrooms, 
and showed it all too plainly; we hardly spoke when 
we were alone together. The mere unreciprocated 
physical residue of my passion remained — an exaspera- 
tion between us. 

No children came to save us. Marion had acquired 
at Smithie 1 s a disgust and dread of maternity. All 
that was the fruition and quintessence of the " horrid " 
elements in life, a disgusting thing, a last indignity 
that overtook unwary women. I doubt indeed a little 
if children would have saved us ; we should have differed 
so fatally about their up-bringing. 

Altogether, I remember my life with Marion as a 
long distress, now hard, now tender. It was in those 
days that I first became critical of my life and 
burthened with a sense of error and maladjustment. 
I would lie awake in the night, asking myself the 
purpose of things, reviewing my unsatisfying, ungainly 
home-life, my days spent in rascal enterprise and 


rubbish-selling, contrasting all I was being and doing 
■with my adolescent ambitions, my Wimblehurst dreams. 
My circumstances had an air of finality, and I asked 
myself in vain why I had forced myself into them. 


The end of our intolerable situation came suddenly 
and unexpectedly, but in a way that I suppose was 
almost inevitable. My alienated affections wandered, 
and I was unfaithful to Marion. 

I wont pretend to extenuate the quality of my con- 
duct. I was a young and fairly vigorous man ; all my 
appetite for love had been roused and whetted and 
none of it had been satisfied by my love affair and my 
marriage. I had pursued an elusive gleam of beauty 
to the disregard of all else, and it had failed me. It 
had faded when I had hoped it would grow brighter. 
I despaired of life and was embittered. And things 
happened as I am telling. I don't draw any moral at 
all in the matter, and as for social remedies, I leave 
them to the social reformer. Fve got to a time of life 
when the only theories that interest me are generaliza- 
tions about realities. 

To go to our inner office in Raggett Street I had 
to walk through a room in which the typists worked. 
They were the correspondence typists ; our books and 
invoicing had long since overflowed into the premises, 
we had had the luck to secure on either side of us. I 
was, I must confess, always in a faintly cloudily-emotional 
way aware of that collection of for the most part 
round-shouldered femininity, but presently one of the 


girls detached herself from the others and got a real 
hold upon my attention. I appreciated her at first as 
a straight little back, a neater back than any of the 
others ; as a softly rounded neck with a smiling neck- 
lace of sham pearls ; as chestnut hair very neatly done 
— and as a side-long glance. Presently as a quickly 
turned face that looked for me. 

My eye would seek her as I went through on 
business things — I dictated some letters to her and 
so discovered she had pretty, soft-looking hands with 
pink nails. Once or twice, meeting casually, we looked 
one another for the flash of a second in the eyes. 

That was all. But it was enough in the mysterious 
free-masonry of sex to say essential things. We had 
a secret between us. 

One day I came into Raggett Street at lunch time 
and she was alone, sitting at her desk. She glanced up 
as I entered, and then became very still, with a down- 
cast face and her hands clenched on the table. I walked 
right by her to the door of the inner office, stopped, 
came back and stood over her. 

We neither of us spoke for quite a perceptible time. 
I was trembling violently. 

" Is that one of the new typewriters ? " I asked at 
last for the sake of speaking. 

She looked up at me without a word, with her face 
flushed and her eyes alight, and I bent down and kissed 
her lips. She leant back to put an arm about me, 
drew my face to her and kissed me again and again. 
I lifted her and held her in my arms. She gave a little 
smothered cry to feel herself so held. 

Never before had I known the quality of passionate 
kisses. . . . 

Somebody became audible in the shop outside. 


We started back from one another with flushed 
faces and bright and burning eyes. 

" We can't talk here/ 1 I whispered with a confident 
intimacy. " Where do you go at five ? " 

"Along the Embankment to Charing Cross,"" she 
answered as intimately. " None of the others go that 
way. . . ." 

" About half-past five?" 

" Yes, half-past five. . . ." 

The door from the shop opened, and she sat down 
very quickly. 

" I'm glad," I said in a commonplace voice, " that 
these new typewriters are all right. 11 

I went into the inner office and routed out the pay- 
sheet in order to find her name — Effie Rink. And I 
did no work at all that afternoon. I fretted about that 
dingy little den like a beast in a cage. 

When presently I went out, Effie was working with 
an extraordinary appearance of calm — and there was no 
look for me at all. . . . 

We met and had our talk that evening, a talk in 
whispers when there was none to overhear ; we came 
to an understanding. It was strangely unlike any 
dream of romance I had ever entertained. 

I came back after a week's absence to my home 
again — a changed man. I had lived out my first rush 
of passion for Effie, had come to a contemplation of 
my position. I had gauged EffiVs place in the scheme 
of things, and parted from her for a time. She was 
back in her place at Raggett Street after a temporary 


indisposition. I did not feel in any way penitent or 
ashamed, I know, as I opened the little east-iron gate 
that kept Marion's front garden and Pampas Grass 
from the wandering dog. Indeed, if anything, I felt 
as if I had vindicated some right that had been in 
question. I came back to Marion with no sense of 
wrong-doing at all — with, indeed, a new friendliness 
towards her. I don't know how it may be proper to 
feel on such occasions ; that is how I felt. 

I found her in our drawing-room, standing beside 
the tall lamp- stand that half filled the bay as though 
she had just turned from watching for me at the 
window. There was something in her pale face that 
arrested me. She looked as if she had not been sleep- 
ing. She did not come forward to greet me. 

" You've come home, 11 she said. 

" As I wrote to you. 11 

She stood very still, a dusky figure against the 
bright window. 

" Where have you been ? " she asked. 

" East Coast, 11 I said easily. 

She paused for a moment. " I hiocc,"" 1 she said. 

1 stared at her. It was the most amazing moment 
in my life. . . . 

" By Jove ! 11 I said at last, " I believe you do ! " 

" And then you come home to me ! 11 

I walked to the hearthrug and stood quite still 
there, regarding this new situation. 

" I didn't dream, 11 she began. " How could you do 
such a thing ? " 

It seemed a long interval before either of us spoke 
another word. 

" Who knows about it ? 11 I asked at last. 

" Smithied brother. They were at Cromer." 


" Confound Cromer ! Yes ! " 

"How could you bring yourself " 

I felt a spasm of petulant annoyance at this un- 
expected catastrophe. 

" I should like to wring Smithie 1 s brother's neck,' 11 
I said. . . . 

Marion spoke in dry broken fragments of sentences. 
'■You . . . Td always thought that anyhow you 
couldn't deceive me. ... I suppose all men are horrid 
— about this." 

" It doesn't strike me as horrid. It seems to me 
the most necessary consequence — and natural thing in 
the world." 

I became aware of some one moving about in the 
passage, and went and shut the door of the room. Then 
I walked back to the hearthrug and turned. 

" It's rough on you," I said. " But I didn't mean 
you to know. You've never cared for me. I've had 
the devil of a time. Why should you mind ? " 

She sat down in a draped armchair. " I have cared 
for you," she said. 

I shrugged my shoulders. 

" I suppose," she said, " she cares for you ? " 

I had no answer. 

" Where is she now ? " 

" Oh ! does it matter to you ? . . . Look here, 
Marion ! This — this I didn't anticipate. I didn't 
mean this thing to smash down on you like this. But, 
you know, something had to happen. I'm sorry — sorry 
to the bottom of my heart that things have come to 
this between us. But indeed, I'm taken by surprise. 
I don't know where I am — I don't know how we got 
here. Things took me by surprise. I found myself 
alone with her one day. I kissed her. I went on. It 


seemed stupid to go back. And besides — why should 
I have gone back ? Why should I ? From first to 
last, I've hardly thought of it as touching you. . . . 

She scrutinized my face, and pulled at the ball- 
fringe of the little table beside her. 

" To think of it," she said. " I don't believe . . . 
I can ever touch you again." 11 

We kept a long silence. I was only beginning 
to realize in the most superficial way the immense 
catastrophe that had happened between us. Enormous 
issues had rushed upon us. I felt unprepared and 
altogether inadequate. I was unreasonably angry. 
There came a rush of stupid expressions to my mind 
that my rising sense of the supreme importance of the 
moment saved me from saying. The gap of silence 
widened until it threatened to become the vast memor- 
able margin of some one among a thousand trivial 
possibilities of speech that would fix our relations for 

Our little general servant tapped at the door — 
Marion always liked the servant to tap — and appeared. 

"Tea, M'm, 11 she said — and vanished, leaving the 
door open. 

" I will go upstairs, 1 '' said I, and stopped. " I will 
go upstairs, 11 I repeated, "and put my bag in the spare 
room. 11 

We remained motionless and silent for a few seconds. 

" Mother is having tea with us to-day, 11 Marion 
remarked at last, and dropped the worried end of ball- 
fringe and stood up slowly. . . . 

And so, with this immense discussion of our changed 
relations hanging over us, we presently had tea with 
the unsuspecting Mrs. Ramboat and the spaniel. Mrs. 


Ramboat was too well trained in her position to remark 
upon our sombre preoccupation. She kept a thin trickle 
of talk going, and told us, I remember, that Mr. Ram- 
boat was " troubled ,1 about his cannas. 

"They don't come up and they won't come up. 
He's been round and had an explanation with the man 
who sold him the bulbs — and he's very heated and 
upset.' 11 

The spaniel was a great bore, begging and doing 
small tricks first at one and then at the other of us. 
Neither of us used his name. You see we had called 
him Miggles, and made a sort of trio in the baby-talk 
of Mutney and Miggles and Ming. 


Then presently we resumed our monstrous, mo- 
mentous duologue. I can't now make out how long 
that duologue went on. It spread itself, I know, in 
heavy fragments over either three days or four. I 
remember myself grouped with Marion, talking sitting 
on our bed in her room, talking standing in our dining- 
room, saying this thing or that. Twice we went for 
long walks. And we had a long evening alone together, 
with jaded nerves and hearts that fluctuated between 
a hard and dreary recognition of facts and, on my part 
at least, a strange unwonted tenderness. Because in 
some extraordinary way this crisis had destroyed our 
mutual apathy and made us feel one another again. 

It was a duologue that had discrepant parts, that 
fell into lumps of talk that failed to join on to their 
predecessors, that began again at a different level, 
higher or lower, that assumed new aspects in the 


intervals and assimilated new considerations. We dis- 
cussed the fact that we two were no longer lovers ; 
never before had we faced that. It seems a strange 
thing to write, but as I look back, I see clearly that 
those several days were the time when Marion and I 
were closest together, looked for the first and last time 
faithfully and steadfastly into each other's soul. For 
those days only, there were no pretences, I made no 
concessions to her nor she to me ; we concealed nothing, 
exaggerated nothing. We had done with pretending. 
We had it out plainly and soberly with each other. 
Mood followed mood and got its stark expression. 

Of course there was quarrelling between us, bitter 
quarrelling, and we said things to one another — long 
pent-up things that bruised and crushed and cut. But 
over it all in my memory now is an effect of deliberate 
confrontation, and the figure of Marion stands up, 
pale, melancholy, tear-stained, injured, implacable and 

"You love her? 1 ' she asked once, and jerked that 
doubt into my mind. 

I struggled with tangled ideas and emotions. " I 
don't know what love is. It's all sorts of things — 
it's made of a dozen strands twisted in a thousand 

" But you want her ? You want her now — when 
you think of her ? " 

" Yes," I reflected. " I want her — right enough." 

" And me ? Where do I come in ? " 

" I suppose you come in here." 

" Well, but what are you going to do ? " 

" Do ! " I said with the exasperation of the situation 
growing upon me. " What do you want me to do ? " 

As I look back on all that time — across a gulf 


of fifteen active years — I find I see it with an under- 
standing judgment. I see it as if it were the business of 
some one else — indeed of two other people — intimately 
known yet judged without passion. I see now that 
this shock, this sudden immense disillusionment, did in 
real fact bring out a mind and soul in Marion ; that 
for the first time she emerged from habits, timidities, 
imitations, phrases and a certain narrow will-impulse, 
and became a personality. 

Her ruling motive at first was, I think, an indignant 
and outraged pride. This situation must end. She 
asked me categorically to give up Effie, and I, full of 
fresh and glowing memories, absolutely refused. 

"It's too late, Marion," I said. "It can't be done 
like that. 1 ' 

"Then we can't very well go on living together," 
she said. " Can we ? " 

" Very well," I deliberated, " if you must have it so." 

" Well, can we ? " 

" Can you stay in this house ? I mean — if I go 
away ? " 

" I don't know. ... I don't think I could." 

" Then — what do you want ? " 

Slowly we worked our way from point to point, 
until at last the word " divorce " was before us. 

"If we can't live together we ought to be free," 
said Marion. 

" I don't know anything of divorce," I said — " if 
you mean that. I don't know how it is done. I shall 
have to ask somebody — or look it up. . . . Perhaps, 
after all, it is the thing to do. We may as well 
face it." 

We began to talk ourselves into a realization of 
what our divergent futures might be. I came back on 


the evening of that day with my questions answered by 
a solicitor. 

" We cant as a matter of fact, 11 I said, " get 
divorced as things are. Apparently, so far as the law 
goes you've got to stand this sort of thing. It's silly 
— but that is the law. However, it's easy to arrange 
a divorce. In addition to adultery there must be 
desertion or cruelty. To establish cruelty I should 
have to strike you, or something of that sort, before 
witnesses. That's impossible — but it's simple to desert 
you — legally. I have to go away from you ; that's all. 
I can go on sending you money — and you bring a suit, 
what is it ? — for Restitution of Conjugal Rights. The 
Court orders me to return. I disobey. Then you can 
go on to divorce me. You get a Decree Nisi, and once 
more the Court tries to make me come back. If we 
don't make it up within six months and if you don't 
behave scandalously — the Decree is made absolute. 
That's the end of the fuss. That's how one gets 
unmarried. It's easier, you see, to marry than 

" And then — how do I live ? What becomes 
of me ? " 

" You'll have an income. They call it alimony. 
From a third to a half of my present income — more 
if you like — I don't mind — three hundred a year, say. 
You've got your old people to keep and you'll need 
all that." 

"And then— then you'll be free? 11 

" Both of us. 11 

" And all this life you've hated " 

I looked up at her wrung and bitter face. " I 
haven't hated it," I lied, my voice near breaking with 
the pain of it all. " Have you ? " 



§ 9 

The perplexing thing about life is the irresoluble 
complexity of reality, of things and relations alike. 
Nothing is simple. Every wrong clone has a certain 
justice in it, and every good deed has dregs of evil. 
As for us, young still, and still without self-knowledge, 
we sounded a hundred discordant notes in the harsh 
jangle of that shock. We were furiously angry with 
each other, tender with each other, callously selfish, 
generously self-sacrificing. 

I remember Marion saying innumerable detached 
things that didn't hang together one with another, 
that contradicted one another, that were nevertheless 
all in their places profoundly true and sincere. I see 
them now as so many vain experiments in her effort 
to apprehend the crumpled confusions of our complex 
moral landslip. Some I found irritating beyond 
measure. I answered her — sometimes quite abominably. 

" Of course,"" she would say again and again, " my 
life has been a failure. 1 ' 

" I've besieged you for three years," I would retort, 
"asking it not to be. You've done as you pleased. 
If I've turned away at last " 

Or again she would revive all the stresses before 
our marriage. 

" How you must hate me ! I made you wait. Well, 
now — I suppose you have your revenge." 

" Revenge ! " I echoed. 

Then she would try over the aspects of our new 
separated lives. 

" I ought to earn my own living," she would insist. 
" I want to be quite independent. I've always hated 
London. Perhaps I shall try a poultry farm and bees. 


You won't mind at first my being a burden. After- 
wards " 

" We've settled all that," I said. 

" I suppose you will hate me anyhow. . . ." 

There were times when she seemed to regard 
our separation with absolute complacency, when she 
would plan all sorts of freedoms and characteristic 

" I shall go out a lot with Smitlne," she said. 

And once she said an ugly thing that I did indeed 
hate her for, that I cannot even now quite forgive her. 

" Your aunt will rejoice at all this. She never cared 
for me. . . ." 

Into my memory of these pains and stresses comes 
the figure of Smithie, full-charged with emotion, so 
breathless in the presence of the horrid villain of the 
piece that she could make no articulate sounds. She 
had long tearful confidences with Marion, I know, 
sympathetic close clingings. There were moments when 
only absolute speechlessness prevented her giving me 
a stupendous " talking to"" — I could see it in her eye. 
The wrong things she would have said ! And I recall 
too, Mrs. Ramboat's slow awakening to something in 
the air, the growing expression of solicitude in her eye, 
only her well-trained fear of Marion keeping her from 
speech. . . . 

And at last through all this welter, like a thing 
fated and altogether beyond our control, parting came 
to Marion and me. 

I hardened my heart, or I could not have gone. 
For at the last it came to Marion that she was parting 
from me for ever. That overbore all other things, and 
turned our last hour to anguish. She forgot for a time 
the prospect of moving into a new house, she forgot 



the outrage on her proprietorship and pride. For the 
first time in her life she really showed strong emotions 
in regard to me, for the first time perhaps, they really 
came to her. She began to weep slow reluctant tears. 
I came into her room, and found her asprawl on the 
bed weeping. 

" I didn't know," she cried. " Oh ! I didn't under- 
stand ! 

" I've been a fool. All my life is a wreck ! 

" I shall be alone ! . . . Mxdney ! Mutney, don't 
leave me ! Oh ! Mutney ! I didn't understand." 

I had to harden my heart indeed, for it seemed to 
me at moments in those last hours together that at 
last, too late, the longed-for thing had happened and 
Marion had come alive. A new-born hunger for me 
lit her eyes. 

" Don't leave me ! " she said, " don't leave me ! " 
She clung to me ; she kissed me with tear-salt lips. . . . 

I was promised now and pledged, and I hardened 
my heart against this impossible dawn. Yet it seems 
to me that there were moments when it needed but a 
cry, but one word to have united us again for all our 
lives. Could we have united again? Would that 
passage have enlightened us for ever, or should we 
have fallen back in a week or so into the old estrange- 
ment, the old temperamental opposition ? 

Of that there is now no telling. Our own resolve 
carried us on our predestined way. We behaved more 
and more like separating lovers, parting inexorably, 
but all the preparations we had set going worked on 
like a machine, and we made no attempt to stop them. 
My trunks and boxes went to the station. I packed 
my bag with Marion standing before me. We were 
like children who had hurt each other horribly in 


sheer stupidity, who didn't know now how to remedy 
it. We belonged to each other immensely — immensely. 
The cab came to the little iron gate. 

" Good-bye ! " I said. 

" Good-bye." 

For a moment we held one another in each other's 
arms and kissed — incredibly without malice. We heard 
our little servant in the passage going to open the door. 
For the last time we pressed ourselves to one another. 
We were not lovers nor enemies, but two human souls 
in a frank community of pain. I tore myself from her. 

" Go away," I said to the servant, seeing that Marion 
had followed me down. 

I felt her standing behind me as I spoke to the 

I got into the cab, resolutely not looking back, and 
then as it started jumped up, craned out and looked 
at the door. 

It was wide open, but she had disappeared. . . . 

I wonder — I suppose she ran upstairs. 

§ 10 

So I parted from Marion at an extremity of per- 
turbation and regret, and went, as I had promised and 
arranged, to Effie who was waiting for me in apartments 
near Orpington. I remember her upon the station 
platform, a bright, flitting figure looking along the 
train for me, and our walk over the fields in the twi- 
light. I had expected an immense sense of relief when 
at last the stresses of separation were over, but now I 
found I was beyond measure wretched and perplexed, 
full of the profoundest persuasion of irreparable error. 


The dusk and sombre Marion were so alike, her sorrow 
seemed to be all about me. I had to hold myself to 
my own plans, to remember that I must keep faith 
with Effie, with Effie who had made no terms, exacted 
no guarantees, but flung herself into my hands. 

We went across the evening fields in silence, towards 
a sky of deepening gold and purple, and Effie was close 
beside me always, very close, glancing up ever and 
again at my face. 

Certainly she knew I grieved for Marion, that ours 
was now no joyful reunion. But she showed no re- 
sentment and no jealousy. Extraordinarily, she did 
not compete against Marion. Never once in all our 
time together did she say an adverse word of 
Marion. ... 

She set herself presently to dispel the shadow that 
brooded over me with the same instinctive skill that 
some women will show with the trouble of a child. 
She made herself my glad and pretty slave and hand- 
maid; she forced me at last to rejoice in her. Yet at 
the back of it all Marion remained, stupid and tearful 
and infinitely distressful, so that I was almost intolerably 
unhappy for her — for her and the dead body of my 
married love. 

It is all, as I tell it now, unaccountable to me. I 
go back into these remote parts, these rarely visited 
uplands and lonely tarns of memory, and it seems to 
me still a strange country. I had thought I might be 
going to some sensuous paradise with Effie, but desire 
which fills the universe before its satisfaction, vanishes 
utterly — like the going of daylight — with achievement. 
All the facts and forms of life remain darkling and 
cold. It was an upland of melancholy questionings, 
a region from which I saw all the world at new 


angles and in new aspects; I had outflanked passion 
and romance. 

I had come into a condition of vast perplexities. 
For the first time in my life, at least so it seems to me 
now in this retrospect, I looked at my existence as a 

Since this was nothing, what was I doing ? What 
was I for ? 

I was going to and fro about Tono-Bungay — the 
business I had taken up to secure Marion and which 
held me now in spite of our ultimate separation — and 
snatching odd week-ends and nights for Orpington, 
and all the while I struggled with these obstinate in- 
terrogations. I used to fall into musing in the trains. 
I became even a little inaccurate and forgetful about 
business things. I have the clearest memory of myself 
sitting thoughtful in the evening sunlight on a grassy 
hillside that looked towards Sevenoaks and commanded 
a wide sweep of country, and that I was thinking out my 
destiny. I could almost write my thoughts down now 
I believe, as they came to me that afternoon. Effie, 
restless little cockney that she was, rustled and struggled 
in a hedgerow below, gathering flowers, discovering 
flowers she had never seen before. I had, I remember, 
a letter from Marion in my pocket. I had even made 
some tentatives for return, for a reconciliation ; Heaven 
knows now how I had put it ! but her cold, ill-written 
letter repelled me. I perceived I could never face that 
old inconclusive dulness of life again, that stagnant 
disappointment. That, anyhow, wasn't possible. But 
what was possible ? I could see no way of honour or 
fine living before me at all. 

" What am I to do with life ? " that was the question 
that besieged me. 


I wondered if all the world was even as I, urged to 
this by one motive and to that by another, creatures 
of chance and impulse and unmeaning traditions. Had 
I indeed to abide by what I had said and done and 
chosen ? Was there nothing for me in honour but to 
provide for Effie, go back penitent to Marion and keep 
to my trade in rubbish — or find some fresh one — and 
so work out the residue of my days ? I didn't accept 
that for a moment. But what else was I to do ? I 
wondered if my case was the case of many men, whether 
in former ages, too, men had been so guideless, so un- 
charted, so haphazard in their journey into life. In 
the Middle Ages, in the old Catholic days, one went 
to a priest, and he said with all the finality of natural 
law, this you are and this you must do. I wondered 
whether even in the Middle Ages I should have 
accepted that ruling without question. . . . 

I remember too very distinctly how Effie came 
and sat beside me on a little box that was before the 
casement window of our room. 

" Gloomkins," said she. 

I smiled and remained head on hand, looking out 
of the window forgetful of her. 

" Did you love your wife so well ? " she whispered 

" Oh ! " I cried, recalled again ; " I don't know. I 
don't understand these things. Life is a thing that 
hurts, my dear ! It hurts without logic or reason. 
I've blundered ! I didn't understand. Anyhow — there 
is no need to go hurting you, is there ? " 

And I turned about and drew her to me, and kissed 
her ear. . . . 

Yes, I had a very bad time — I still recall. I suffered, 
I suppose, from a sort of ennui of the imagination. I 


found myself without an object to hold my will together. 
I sought. I read restlessly and discursively. I tried 
Ewart and got no help from him. As I regard it all 
now in this retrospect, it seems to me as if in those 
days of disgust and abandoned aims I discovered 
myself for the first time. Before that I had seen only 
the world and things in it, had sought them self- 
forgetful of all but my impulse. Now I found myself 
grouped, with a system of appetites and satisfactions, 
with much work to do — and no desire, it seemed, left 
in me. 

There were moments when I thought of suicide. 
At times my life appeared before me in bleak, relentless 
light, a series of ignorances, crude blunderings, degrada- 
tion and cruelty. I had what the old theologians call a 
" conviction of sin." I sought salvation — not perhaps 
in the formulae a Methodist preacher would recognize — 
but salvation nevertheless. 

Men find their salvation nowadays in many ways. 
Names and forms don't, I think, matter very much, the 
real need is something that we can hold and that holds 
one. I have known a man find that determining factor 
in a dry-plate factory, and another in writing a history 
of the Manor. So long as it holds one, it does not 
matter. Many men and women nowadays take up 
some concrete aspect of socialism or social reform. 
But socialism for me has always been a little bit too 
human, too set about with personalities and foolish- 
ness. It isn't my line. I don't like things so human. 
I don't think I'm blind to the fun, the surprises, the 
jolly little coarsenesses and insufficiency of life, to the 
" humour of it," as people say, and to adventure, but 
that isn't the root of the matter with me. There's no 
humour in my blood. I'm in earnest in warp and woof. 


I stumble and flounder, but I know that over all these 
merry immediate things, there are other things that 
are great and serene, very high, beautiful things — the 
reality. I haven't got it, but it's there nevertheless. 
I'm a spiritual guttersnipe in love with unimaginable 
goddesses. I've never seen the goddesses nor ever shall 
— but it takes all the fun out of the mud — and at 
times I fear it takes all the kindliness too. 

But I'm talking of things I can't expect the reader 
to understand, because I don't half understand them 
myself. There is something links things for me, a 
sunset or so, a mood or so, the high air, something 
there was in Marion's form and colour, something I 
find and lose in Mantegna's pictures, something in the 
lines of these boats I make. (You should see X2, my 
last and best !) 

I can't explain myself, I perceive. Perhaps it all 
comes to this, that I am a hard and morally limited 
cad with a mind beyond my merits. Naturally I resist 
that as a complete solution. Anyhow, I had a sense of 
inexorable need, of distress and insufficiency that was 
unendurable, and for a time this aeronautical engineer- 
ing allayed it. . . . 

In the end of this particular crisis of which I tell 
so badly, I idealized Science. I decided that in power 
and knowledge lay the salvation of my life, the secret 
that would fill my need; that to these things I would 
give myself. I emerged at last like a man who has 
been diving in darkness, clutching at a new resolve for 
which he has groped desperately and long. 

I came into the inner office suddenly one day — it 
must have been just before the time of Marion's suit 
for restitution — and sat down before my uncle. 

" Look here," I said, " I'm sick of this." 

MARION" 251 

" Hulfo / " he answered, and put some papers aside. 
« What's up, George ? " 

" Things are wrong." 

"As how?" 

" My life," I said, " it's a mess, an infinite mess." 

" She's been a stupid girl, George," he said ; " I 
partly understand. But you're quit of her now, prac- 
tically, and there's just as good fish in the sea " 

"Oh! it's not that," I cried. "That's only the 

part that shows. I'm sick I'm sick of all this 

damned rascality." 

" Eh ? Eh ? " said my uncle. " What— rascality ? " 

" Oh, you know. I want some stuff] man. I want 
something to hold on to. I shall go amok if I don't 
get it. I'm a different sort of beast from you. You 
float in all this bunkum. / feel like a man floundering 
in a universe of soapsuds, up and down, east and west. 
I can't stand it. I must get my foot on something 
solid or — I don't know what." 

I laughed at the consternation in his face. 

" I mean it," I said. " I've been thinking it over. 
I've made up my mind. It's no good arguing. I shall 
go in for work — real work. No ! this isn't work ; it's 
only laborious cheating. But I've got an idea ! It's 
an old idea — I thought of years ago, but it came back 
to me. Look here ! Why should I fence about with 
you? I believe the time has come for flying to be 
possible. Real flying ! " 

" Flying ! " 

" Up in the air. Aeronautics ! Machine heavier 
than air. It can be done. And I want to do it." 

" Is there money in it, George ? " 

" I don't know nor care ! But that's what I'm going 
to do." 


I stuck to that, and it helped me through the worst 
time in my life. My uncle, after some half-hearted 
resistance and a talk with my aunt, behaved like the 
father of a spoilt son. He fixed up an arrangement 
that gave me capital to play with, released me from 
too constant a solicitude for the newer business develop- 
ments — this was in what I may call the later Moggs 
period of our enterprises — and I went to work at once 
with grim intensity. . . . 

But I will tell of my soaring and flying machines 
in the proper place. I've been leaving the story of my 
uncle altogether too long. I wanted merely to tell how 
it was I took to this work. I took to these experi- 
ments after I had sought something that Marion in 
some indefinable way had seemed to promise. I toiled 
and forgot myself for a time, and did many things. 
Science too has been something of an irresponsive mis- 
tress since, though I've served her better than I served 
Marion. But at the time Science, with her order, her 
inhuman distance, her steely certainties, saved me from 

Well, I have still to fly; but incidentally I have 
invented the lightest engines in the world. . . . 

I am trying to tell of all the things that happened 
to me. It's hard enough simply to get it put down in 
the remotest degree right. But this is a novel, not a 
treatise. Don't imagine that I am coming presently to 
any sort of solution of my difficulties. Here among 
my drawings and hammerings now, I still question un- 
answering problems. All my life has been at bottom, 
seeking, disbelieving always, dissatisfied always with the 
thing seen and the thing believed, seeking something in 
toil, in force, in danger, something whose name and 
nature I do not clearly understand, something beautiful, 


worshipful, enduring, mine profoundly and fundamen- 
tally, and the utter redemption of myself; I don't 
know, — all I can tell is that it is something I have ever 
failed to find. 


But before I finish this chapter and book altogether 
and go on with the great adventure of my uncle's career, 
I may perhaps tell what else remains to tell of Marion 
and Effie, and then for a time set my private life 
behind me. 

For a time Marion and I corresponded with some 
regularity, writing friendly but rather uninforming 
letters about small business things. The clumsy pro- 
cess of divorce completed itself. She left the house 
at Ealing and went into the country with her aunt and 
parents, taking a small farm near Lewes in Sussex. She 
put up glass, she put in heat for her father, happy man ! 
and spoke of figs and peaches. The thing seemed to 
promise well throughout a spring and summer, but the 
Sussex winter after London was too much for the Ram- 
boats. They got very muddy and dull ; Mr. Ram boat 
killed a cow by improper feeding, and that disheartened 
them all. A twelvemonth saw the enterprise in diffi- 
culties. I had to help her out of this, and then they 
returned to London and she went into partnership 
with Smithie at Streatham, and ran a business that 
was intimated on the firm's stationery as "Robes." 
The parents and aunt were stowed away in a cottage 
somewhere. After that the letters became infrequent. 
But in one I remember a postscript that had a little 
stab of our old intimacy : " Poor old Miggles is dead/' 


Nearly eight years slipped by. I grew up. I grew 
in experience, in capacity, until I was fully a man, busy 
with many new interests, liviug on a larger scale in a 
wider world than I could have dreamt of in my Marion 
days. Her letters became rare and insignificant. At 
last came a gap of silence that made me curious. For 
eighteen months or more I had nothing from Marion 
save her quarterly receipts through the bank. Then I 
damned at Smithie, and wrote a card to Marion. 

" Dear Marion,'" I said, " how goes it ? " 

She astonished me tremendously by telling me she 
had married again — "a Mr. Wachorn, a leading agent 
in the paper-pattern trade." But she still wrote on 
the Ponderevo and Smith (Robes) notepaper, from the 
Ponderevo and Smith address. 

And that, except for a little difference of opinion 
about the continuance of alimony which gave me some 
passages of anger, and the use of my name by the firm, 
which also annoyed me, is the end of Marion's history 
for me, and she vanishes out of this story. I do not 
know where she is or what she is doing. I do not 
know whether she is alive or dead. It seems to me 
utterly grotesque that two people who have stood so 
close to one another as she and I should be so separated, 
but so it is between us. 

Effie, too, I have parted from, though I still see 
her at times. Between us there was never any inten- 
tion of marriage nor intimacy of soul. She had a 
sudden fierce hot-blooded passion for me and I for her, 
but I was not her first lover nor her last. She was in 
another world from Marion. She had a queer delightful 
nature; I've no memory of ever seeing her sullen or 
malicious. She was — indeed she was magnificently — 
eupeptic. That I think was the central secret of her 


agreeableness, and moreover that she was infinitely 
kind-hearted. I helped her at last into an opening she 
coveted, and she amazed me by a sudden display of 
business capacity. She has now a typewriting bureau 
in Riffle's Inn, and she runs it with a brisk vigour and 
considerable success, albeit a certain plumpness has 
overtaken her. And she still loves her kind. She 
married a year or so ago a boy half her age — a wretch 
of a poet, a wretched poet and given to drugs, a thing 
with lank fair hair always getting into his blue eyes, 
and limp legs. She did it, she said, because he needed 
nursing. . . . 

But enough of this disaster of my marriage and of 
my early love affairs ; I have told all that is needed for 
my picture to explain how I came to take up aeroplane 
experiments and engineering science ; let me get back 
to my essential story, to Tono-Bungay and my uncle's 
promotions and to the vision of the world these things 
have given me. 





The Hardingham Hotel, and how we 
became Big People 


But now that I resume the main line of my story it may 
be well to describe the personal appearance of my uncle 
as I remember him during those magnificent years that 
followed his passage from trade to finance. The little 
man plumped up very considerably during the creation 
of the Tono-Bungay property, but with the increasing 
excitements that followed that first flotation came dys- 
pepsia and a certain flabbiness and falling away. His 
abdomen — if the reader will pardon my taking his 
features in the order of their value — had at first a nice 
full roundness, but afterwards it lost tone, without how- 
ever losing size. He always went as though he was 
proud of it and would make as much of it as possible. 
To the last his movements remained quick and sudden, 
his short firm legs, as he walked, seemed to twinkle 
rather than display the scissors-stride of common 
humanity, and he never seemed to have knees, but 
instead, a dispersed flexibility of limb. 

There was, I seem to remember, a secular intensifi- 
cation of his features, his nose developed character, 

259 s 2 


became aggressive, stuck out at the world more and 
more ; the obliquity of his mouth I think increased. 
From the face that returns to my memory projects a 
long cigar that is sometimes cocked jauntily up from the 
higher corner, that sometimes droops from the lower; — 
it was as eloquent as a dog's tail, and he removed it 
only for the more emphatic modes of speech. He 
assumed a broad black ribbon for his glasses, and wore 
them more and more askew as time went on. His hair 
seemed to stiffen with success, but towards the climax it 
thinned greatly over the crown and he brushed it hard 
back over his ears where, however, it stuck out fiercely. 
It always stuck out fiercely over his forehead, up and 

He adopted an urban style of dressing with the 
onset of Tono-Bungay and rarely abandoned it. He 
preferred silk hats with ample rich brims, often a trifle 
large for him by modern ideas, and he wore them at 
various angles to his axis ; his taste in trouserings was 
towards fairly emphatic stripes and his trouser cut was 
neat ; he liked his frock-coat long and full although 
that seemed to shorten him. He displayed a number 
of valuable rings, and I remember one upon his left 
little finger with a large red stone bearing Gnostic 
symbols. " Clever chaps, those Gnostics, George, 11 he 
told me. " Means a lot. Lucky ! " He never had 
any but a black mohair watch-chain. In the country he 
affected grey and a large grey cloth top-hat, except 
when motoring ; then he would have a brown deer- 
stalker cap and a fur suit of Esquimaux cut with a 
sort of boot-end to the trousers. Of an evening he 
would wear white waistcoats and plain gold studs. He 
hated diamonds. " Flashy, 11 he said they were. " Might 
as well wear an income-tax receipt. All very well for 


Park Lane. Unsold stock. Not my style. Sober 
financier, George." 

So much for his visible presence. For a time it was 
very familiar to the world, for at the crest of the boom 
he allowed quite a number of photographs and at least 
one pencil sketch to be published in the sixpenny 
papers. . . . His voice declined during those years from 
his early tenor to a flat rich quality of sound that my 
knowledge of music is inadequate to describe. His 
Zzz-ing inrush of air became less frequent as he ripened, 
but returned in moments of excitement. Throughout 
his career, in spite of his increasing and at last astound- 
ing opulence, his more intimate habits remained as simple 
as they had been at Wimblehurst. He would never 
avail himself of the services of a valet ; at the very 
climax of his greatness his trousers were folded by a 
housemaid and his shoulders brushed as he left his 
house or hotel. He became wary about breakfast as. 
life advanced, and at one time talked much of Dr. Haig 
and uric acid. But for other meals he remained reason- 
ably omnivorous. He was something of a gastronome, 
and would eat anything he particularly liked in an 
audible manner, and perspire upon his forehead. He 
was a studiously moderate drinker — except when the 
spirit of some public banquet or some great occasion 
caught him and bore him beyond his wariness — then he 
would as it were drink inadvertently and become 
flushed and talkative — about everything but his business- 

To make the portrait complete one wants to convey 
an effect of sudden, quick bursts of movement like the 
jumps of a Chinese-cracker to indicate that his pose, 
whatever it is, has been preceded and will be followed 
by a rush. If I were painting him, I should certainly 


give him for a background that distressed, uneasy sky 
that was popular in the eighteenth century, and at a 
convenient distance a throbbing motor-car, very big 
and contemporary, a secretary hurrying with papers, 
and an alert chauffeur. 

Such was the figure that created and directed the 
great property of Tono-Bungay, and from the successful 
reconstruction of that company passed on to a slow 
crescendo of magnificent creations and promotions until 
the whole world of investors marvelled. I have already, 
I think, mentioned how, long before we offered Tono- 
Bungay to the public, we took over the English agency of 
certain American specialities. To this was presently 
added our exploitation of Moggs' Domestic Soap, and 
so he took up the Domestic Convenience Campaign that, 
coupled with his equatorial rotundity and a certain 
resolute convexity in his bearing, won my uncle his 
Napoleonic title. 

It illustrates the romantic element in modern com- 
merce that my uncle met young Moggs at a city dinner 
— I think it was the Bottle-makers' Company — when 
both were some way advanced beyond the initial 
sobriety of the occasion. This was the grandson of the 
original Moggs, and a very typical instance _of an 
educated, cultivated, degenerate plutocrat. His people 
had taken him about in his youth like the Ruskins took 
their John, and fostered a passion for history in him, 
and the actual management of the Moggs"' industry had 
devolved upon a cousin and a junior partner. Mr. 
Moggs, being of a studious and refined disposition, had 
just decided — after a careful search for a congenial 


subject in which he would not be constantly reminded 
of soap — to devote himself to the History of the 
Thebaid when this cousin died suddenly and precipitated 
responsibilities upon him. In the frankness of con- 
viviality, Moggs bewailed the uncongenial task thus 
thrust into his hands, and my uncle offered to lighten 
his burden by a partnership then and there. They 
even got to terms — extremely muzzy terms, but terms 

Each gentleman wrote the name and address of the 
other on his cuff, and they separated in a mood of 
brotherly carelessness, and next morning neither seems 
to have thought to rescue his shirt from the wash until 
it was too late. My uncle made a painful struggle — it 
was one of my business mornings — to recall name and 

" He was an aquarium-faced, long, blond sort of 
chap, George, with glasses and a genteel accent," he said. 

I was puzzled. " Aquarium-faced ? " 

" You know how they look at you. His stuff was 
soap, Fni pretty nearly certain. And he had a name. 
And the thing was the straightest Bit-of- All-Right you 
ever. I was clear enough to spot that . . . " 

We went out at last with knitted brows, and 
wandered up into Finsbury seeking a good, well-stocked 
looking grocer. We called first on a chemist for a 
pick-me-up for my uncle, and then we found the shop 
we needed. 

" I want," said my uncle, " half a pound of 
every sort of soap you got. Yes, I want to take 
them now. . . . Wait a moment, George. . . . Now 
whassort of soap dyou call that?"* 

At the third repetition of that question the young 
man said, " Moggs 1 Domestic." 


" Right," said my uncle. " You needn't guess again. 
Come along, George, let's go to a telephone and get on 
to Moggs. Oh — the order ? Certainly. I confirm it. 
Send it all — send it all to the Bishop of London ; hell 
have some good use for it — (First-rate man, George, he 
is — charities and all that) — and put it down to me — 
here's a card — Ponderevo — Tono-Bu no-ay." 

Then we went on to Moggs and found him in a 
camel-hair dressing-jacket in a luxurious bed, drinking 
China tea, and got the shape of everything but the 
figures fixed by lunch time. 

Young Moggs enlarged my mind considerably ; he 
was a sort of thing I hadn't met before ; he seemed 
quite clean and well-informed and he assured me he 
never read newspapers nor used soap in any form at all. 
" Delicate skin,' 1 he said. 

"No objection to our advertising you wide and 
free ? " said my uncle. 

" I draw the line at railway stations," said Moggs, 
" south-coast cliffs, theatre programmes, books by me 
and poetry generally — scenery — oh ! — and the Mercure 
de France? 

" Well get along," said my uncle. 

" So long as you don't annoy me," said Moggs, light- 
ing a cigarette, " you can make me as rich as you like." 

We certainly made him no poorer. His was the 
first firm that was advertised by a circumstantial history ; 
we even got to illustrated magazine articles telling of 
the quaint past of Moggs. We concocted Moggsiana. 
Trusting to our partner's preoccupation with the 
uncommercial aspects of life, we gave graceful histories 
of Moggs the First, Moggs the Second, Moggs the 
Third, and Moggs the Fourth. You must, unless you 
are very young, remember some of them and our 


admirable block of a Georgian shop window. My 
uncle bought early nineteenth-century memoirs, soaked 
himself in the style, and devised stories about old 
3Ioggs the First and the Duke of "Wellington, George 
the Third and the soap dealer (" almost certainly old 
Moggs "). Very soon we had added to the original 
Moggs 1 Primrose several varieties of scented and super- 
fatted, a " special nursery— as used in the household of 
the Duke of Kent and for the old Queen in Infancy," a 
plate powder, " the Paragon," and a knife powder. We 
roped in a good little second-rate black-lead firm, and 
carried their origins back into the mists of antiquity. 
It was my uncle's own unaided idea that we should 
associate that commodity with the Black Prince. He 
became industriously curious about the past of black- 
lead. I remember his button-holeing the president of 
the Pepys Society. 

" I say, is there any black-lead in Pepys ? You 
know — black-lead — for grates ! Or does he pass it over 
as a matter of course ? " 

He became in those days the terror of eminent 
historians. " Don't want your drum and trumpet 
history — no fear," he used to say. " Don't want to 
know who was who's mistress, and why so-and-so 
devastated such a province ; that's bound to be all lies 
and upsy-down anyhow. Not my affair. Nobody's 
affair now. Chaps who did it didn't clearly know. . . . 
What I want to know is, in the middle ages Did they 
Do Anything for Housemaid's Knee ? What did they 
put in their hot baths after jousting, and was the Black 
Prince — you know the Black Prince — was he enamelled 
or painted, or what ? I think myself, black-leaded — 
very likely — like pipe-clay — but did they use blacking 
so early ? " 


So it came about that in designing and writing 
those Moggs 1 Soap Advertisements, that wrought a 
revolution in that department of literature, my uncle 
was brought to realize not only the lost history, but 
also the enormous field for invention and enterprise 
that lurked among the little articles, the dustpans and 
mincers, the mousetraps and carpet-sweepers that fringe 
the shops of the oilman and domestic ironmonger. He 
was recalled to one of the dreams of his youth, to his 
conception of the Ponderevo Patent Flat that had been 
in his mind so early as the days before I went to serve 
him at Wimblehurst. " The Home, George," he said, 
" wants straightening up. Silly muddle ! Things that 
get in the way. Got to organize it." 

For a time he displayed something like the zeal of 
a genuine social reformer in relation to these matters. 

"We've got to bring the Home Up to Date? 
That's my idee, George. We got to make a civilized 
d'mestic machine out of these relics of barbarism. Pm 
going to hunt up inventors, make a corner in d'mestic 
idees. Everything. Balls of string that won't dissolve 
into a tangle, and gum that won't dry into horn. See ? 
Then after conveniences — beauty. Beauty, George ! 
All these new things ought to be made fit to look at, 
it's your aunt's idee, that. Beautiful jam-pots ! Get 
one of those new art chaps to design all the things they 
make ugly now. Patent carpet-sweepers by these green- 
wood chaps, housemaid's boxes it'll be a pleasure to 
fall over — rich coloured house-flannels. Zzzz. Pails, 
frinstance. Hang 'em up on the walls like warming- 
pans. All the polishes and things in such tins — you'll 
want to cuddle 'em, George ! See the notion ? 'Sted 
of all the silly ugly things we got." . . . 

We had some magnificent visions ; they so affected 


me that when I passed ironmongers and oil-shops they 
seemed to me as full of promise as trees in late winter, 
flushed with the effort to burst into leaf and flower. 
. . . And really we did do much towards that new 
brightness these shops display. They were dingy things 
in the eighties compared to what our efforts have made 
them now, grey quiet displays. . . . 

Well, I don't intend to write down here the tortuous 
financial history of Moggs' Limited, which was our first 
development of Moggs and Sons ; nor will I tell very 
much of how from that we spread ourselves with a 
larger and larger conception throughout the chandlery 
and minor ironmongery, how we became agents for this 
little commodity, partners in that, got a tentacle round 
the neck of a specialized manufacturer or so, secured 
a pull upon this or that supply of raw material, and 
so prepared the way for our second flotation, Domestic 
Utilities; — "Do lit," they rendered it in the city. 
And then came the reconstruction of Tono-Bungay, and 
then " Household Services " and the Boom ! 

That sort of development is not to be told in detail 
in a novel. I have, indeed, told much of it elsewhere. 
It is to be found set out at length, painfully at length, 
in my uncle's examination and mine in the bankruptcy 
proceedings, and in my own various statements after his 
death. Some people know everything in that story, 
some know it all too well, most do not want the details, 
it is the story of a man of imagination among figures, 
and unless you are prepared to collate columns of 
pounds, shillings and pence, compare dates and check 
additions, you will find it very unmeaning and per- 
plexing. And after all, you wouldn't find the early 
figures so much wrong as strained. In the matter of 
Moggs and Do Ut, as in the first Tono-Bungay 


promotion and in its reconstruction, we left the court 
by city standards without a stain on our characters. 
The great amalgamation of Household Services was my 
uncle's first really big-scale enterprise and his first 
display of bolder methods; for this we bought back 
Do Ut, Moggs (going strong with a seven per cent, 
dividend) and acquired Skinnerton's polishes, the 
Hiffleshaw properties and the Runcorn's mincer and 
coffee-mill business. To that Amalgamation I was 
really not a party; I left it to my uncle because I was 
then beginning to get keen upon the soaring experi- 
ments I had taken on from the results then to hand 
of Lilienthal, Pilcher and the Wright brothers. I was 
developing a glider into a flyer. I meant to apply 
power to this glider as soon as I could work out one 
or two residual problems affecting the longitudinal 
stability. I knew that I had a sufficiently light motor 
in my own modification of Bridgets light turbine, but 
I knew too that until I had cured my aeroplane of 
a tendency demanding constant alertness from me, a 
tendency to jerk up its nose at unexpected moments 
and slide back upon me, the application of an engine 
would be little short of suicide. 

But that I will tell about later. The point I was 
coming to was that I did not realize until after the 
crash how recklessly my uncle had kept his promise of 
paying a dividend of over eight per cent, on the 
ordinary shares of that hugely over-capitalized enter- 
prise, Household Services. 

I drifted out of business affairs into my research 
much more than either I or my uncle had contemplated. 
Finance was much less to my taste than the organization 
of the Tono-Bungay factory. In the new field of enter- 
prise there was a great deal of bluffing and gambling* 


of taking chances and concealing material facts — and 
these are hateful things to the scientific type of mind. 
It wasn't fear I felt so much as an uneasy inaccuracy. 
I didn't realize dangers, I simply disliked the sloppy, 
relaxing quality of this new sort of work. I was at 
last constantly making excuses not to come up to him 
in London. The latter part of his business career 
recedes therefore beyond the circle of my particular 
life. I lived more or less with him ; I talked, I advised, 
I helped him at times to fight his Sunday crowd at 
Crest Hill, but I did not follow nor guide him. From 
the Do Ut time onward he rushed up the financial 
world like a bubble in water and left me like some busy 
water-thing down below in the deeps. 

Anyhow he was an immense success. The public 
was I think, particularly attracted by the homely 
familiarity of his field of work — you never lost sight 
of your investment they felt, with the name on the 
house-flannel and shaving-strop — and its allegiance was 
secured by the Egyptian solidity of his apparent results. 
Tono-Bungay, after its reconstruction, paid thirteen, 
Moggs seven, Domestic Utilities had been a safe-looking 
nine ; here was Household Services with eight ; on such 
a showing he had merely to buy and sell Roeburn's 
Antiseptic fluid, Razor soaks and Bath crystals in three 
weeks to clear twenty thousand pounds. I do think 
that as a matter of fact Roeburn's was good value at 
the price at which he gave it to the public at least until 
it was strained by ill-conceived advertisement. It was a 
period of expansion and confidence ; much money was 
seeking investment and " Industrials " were the fashion. 
Prices were rising all round. There remained little more 
for my uncle to do, therefore, in his climb to the high 
unstable crest of Financial Greatness but, as he said, 


to " grasp the cosmic oyster, George, while it gaped," 
which being translated meant for him to buy respect- 
able businesses confidently and courageously at the 
vendor's estimate, add thirty or forty thousand to the 
price and sell them again. His sole difficulty indeed 
was the tactful management of the load of shares that 
each of these transactions left upon his hands. But I 
thought so little of these later things that I never fully 
appreciated the peculiar inconveniences of that until it 
was too late to help him. 


When I think of my uncle near the days of his 
Great Boom and in connection with the actualities of 
his enterprises, I think of him as I used to see him in 
the suite of rooms he occupied in the Hardingham 
Hotel, seated at a great old oak writing-table, smoking, 
drinking, and incoherently busy; that was his typical 
financial aspect — our evenings, our mornings, our 
holidays, our motor-car expeditions, Lady Grove and 
Crest Hill belong to an altogether different set of 

These rooms in the Hardingham were a string of 
apartments along one handsome thick-carpeted corridor. 
All the doors upon the corridor were locked except the 
first; and my uncle's bedroom, breakfast room and 
private sanctum were the least accessible and served 
by an entrance from the adjacent passage, which he 
also used at times as a means of escape from impor- 
tunate callers. The most external room was a general 
waiting room and very business-like in quality ; it had 
one or two uneasy sofas, a number of chairs, a green 
baize table, and a collection of the very best Moggs 


and Tono posters ; and the plush carpets normal to the 
Hardingham had been replaced by a grey-green cork 
linoleum. Here I would always find a remarkable 
miscellany of people, presided over by a peculiarly 
faithful and ferocious-looking commissionaire, Hopper, 
who guarded the door that led a step nearer my uncle. 
Usually there would be a parson or so, one or two 
widows; hairy, eye-glassy, middle-aged gentlemen, 
some of them looking singularly like Edward Pon- 
derevos who hadn't come oflf, a variety of young and 
youngish men more or less attractively dressed, some 
with papers protruding from their pockets, others with 
their papers decently concealed. And wonderful 
incidental, frowsy people. 

All these persons maintained a practically hopeless 
siege — sometimes for weeks together; they had better 
have stayed at home. Next came a room full of people 
who had some sort of appointment, and here one would 
find smart-looking people, brilliantly dressed, nervous 
women hiding behind magazines, nonconformist divines, 
clergy in gaiters, real business men, these latter for the 
most part gentlemen in admirable morning dress who 
stood up and scrutinized my uncle's taste in water colours 
manfully and sometimes by the hour together. Young 
men again were here of various social origins — young 
Americans, treasonable clerks from other concerns, 
university young men, keen-looking, most of them, 
resolute, reserved but on a sort of hair trigger, ready 
at any moment to be most voluble, most persuasive. 
This room had a window too, looking out into the 
hotel courtyard with its fern-set fountains and mosaic 
pavement, and the young men would stand against this 
and sometimes even mutter. One day I heard one 
repeating in an urgent whisper as I passed, " But you 


don't quite see, Mr. Ponderevo, the full advantages, 

the full advantages M I met his eye and he was 


Then came a room with a couple of secretaries — no 
typewriters because my uncle hated the clatter — and 
a casual person or two sitting about, projectors whose 
projects were being entertained. Here and in a further 
room nearer the private apartments, my uncle's corre- 
spondence underwent an exhaustive process of pruning 
and digestion before it reached him. Then the two 
little rooms in which my uncle talked ; my magic uncle 
who had got the investing public — to whom all things 
were possible. 

As one came in one would find him squatting with 
his cigar up and an expression of dubious beatitude 
upon his face, while some one urged him to grow still 
richer by this or that. 

"Thatju, George? 11 he used to say. "Come in. 
Here's a thing. Tell him — Mister — over again. Have 
a drink, George ? No ! Wise man ! Lissn.' 1 

I was always ready to listen. All sorts of financial 
marvels came out of the Hardingham, more particularly 
during my uncle's last great flurry, but they were 
nothing to the projects that passed in. It was the 
little brown and gold room he sat in usually. He had 
had it redecorated by Bordingly and half a dozen 
Sussex pictures by Webster hung about it. Latterly 
he wore a velveteen jacket of a golden-brown colour 
in this apartment that I think over-emphasized its 
aesthetic intention and he also added some gross Chinese 
bronzes. . . . 

He was on the whole a very happy man throughout 
all that wildly enterprising time. He made and, as 
I shall tell in its place, spent great sums of money. 


He was constantly in violent motion, constantly 
stimulated mentally and physically and rarely tired. 
About him was an atmosphere of immense deference ; 
much of his waking life was triumphal and all his 
dreams. I doubt if he had any dissatisfaction with 
himself at all until the crash bore him down. Things 
must have gone very rapidly with him. ... I think he 
must have been very happy. 

As I sit here writing about all these things, jerking 
down notes and throwing them aside in my attempt 
to give some literary form to the tale of our promotions, 
the marvel of it all comes to me as if it came for the 
first time, the supreme unreason of it. At the climax 
of his Boom, my uncle at the most sparing estimate 
must have possessed in substance and credit about two 
million pounds'- worth of property to set off against his 
vague colossal liabilities, and from first to last he must 
have had a controlling influence in the direction of 
nearly thirty millions. This irrational muddle of a 
community in which we live gave him that, paid him 
at that rate for sitting in a room and scheming and 
telling it lies. For he created nothing, he invented 
nothing, he economized nothing. I cannot claim that 
a single one of the great businesses we organized added 
any real value to human life at all. Several like Tono- 
Bungay were unmitigated frauds by any honest standard, 
the giving of nothing coated in advertisements for 
money. And the things the Hardingham gave out, 
I repeat, were nothing to the things that came in. 
I think of the long procession of people who sat down 
before us and propounded this and that. Now it was 
a device for selling bread under a fancy name and so 
escaping the laws as to weight — this was afterwards 
floated as the Decorticated Health-Bread Company and 



bumped against the law — now it was a new scheme 
for still more strident advertisement, now it was a story 
of unsuspected deposits of minerals, now a cheap and 
nasty substitute for this or that common necessity, now 
the treachery of a too well-informed employee, anxious 
to become our partner. It was all put to us tentatively, 
persuasively. Sometimes one had a large pink blusterous 
person trying to carry us off our feet by his pseudo- 
boyish frankness, now some dyspeptically yellow 
whisperer, now some earnest, specially dressed youth 
with an eye-glass and a buttonhole, now some homely- 
speaking, shrewd Manchester man or some Scotchman 
eager to be very clear and full. Many came in couples 
or trios, often in tow of an explanatory solicitor. Some 
were white and earnest, some flustered beyond measure 
at their opportunity. Some of them begged and prayed 
to be taken up. My uncle chose what he wanted and 
left the rest. He became very autocratic to these 
applicants. He felt he could make them, and they felt 
so too. He had but to say " No ! " and they faded out 
of existence. . . . He had become a sort of vortex to 
which wealth flowed of its own accord. His possessions 
increased by heaps ; his shares, his leaseholds and 
mortgages and debentures. 

Behind his first-line things he found it necessary at 
last, and sanctioned by all the precedents, to set up 
three general trading companies, the London and 
African Investment Company, the British Traders' 
Loan Company, and Business Organizations Limited. 
That was in the culminating time when I had least 
to do with affairs. I don't say that with any desire 
to exculpate myself, I admit I was a director of all 
three, and I will confess I was wilfully incurious in that 
capacity. Each of these companies ended its financial 



year solvent by selling great holdings of shares to one 
or other of its sisters, and paying a dividend out of the 
proceeds. I sat at the table and agreed. That was 
our method of equilibrium at the iridescent climax of 
the bubble. ... 

You perceive now, however, the nature of the 
services for which this fantastic community gave him 
unmanageable wealth and power and real respect. It 
was all a monstrous payment for courageous fiction, a 
gratuity in return for the one reality of human life — 
illusion. We gave them a feeling of hope and profit ; 
we sent a tidal wave of water and confidence into their 
stranded affairs. " We mint Faith, George," said my 
uncle one day. "That's what we do. And by Jove 
we got to keep minting ! We been making human 
confidence ever since I drove the first cork of Tono- 

"Coining" would have been a better word than 
minting ! And yet, you know, in a sense he was right. 
Civilization is possible only through confidence, so that 
we can bank our money and go unarmed about the 
streets. The bank reserve or a policeman keeping 
order in a jostling multitude of people, are only slightly 
less impudent bluffs than my uncle's prospectuses. 
They couldn't for a moment "make good" if the 
quarter of what they guarantee was demanded of them. 
The whole of this modern mercantile investing civiliza- 
tion is indeed such stuff as dreams are made of. A 
mass of people swelters and toils, great railway systems 
grow, cities arise to the skies and spread wide and far, 
mines are opened, factories hum, foundries roar, ships 
plough the seas, countries are settled ; about this busy 
striving world the rich owners go, controlling all, 
enjoying all, confident and creating the confidence that 


draws us all together into a reluctant, nearly unconscious 
brotherhood. I wonder and plan my engines. The 
flags flutter, the crowds cheer, the legislatures meet. 
Yet it seems to me indeed at times that all this present 
commercial civilization is no more than my poor uncle's 
career writ large, a swelling, thinning bubble of assur- 
ances ; that its arithmetic is just as unsound, its 
dividends as ill-advised, its ultimate aim as vague and 
forgotten ; that it all drifts on perhaps to some 
tremendous parallel to his individual disaster. . . . 

Well, so it was we Boomed, and for four years and 
a half we lived a life of mingled substance and moon- 
shine. Until our particular unsoundness overtook us 
we went about in the most magnificent of motor-cars 
upon tangible high-roads, made ourselves conspicuous 
and stately in splendid houses, ate sumptuously and 
had a perpetual stream of notes and money trickling 
into our pockets ; hundreds of thousands of men and 
■women respected us, saluted us and gave us toil and 
honour; I asked, and my work sheds rose, my aero- 
planes swooped out of nothingness to scare the down- 
land pewits; my uncle waved his hand and Lady 
Grove and all its associations of chivalry and ancient 
peace were his ; waved again, and architects were busy 
planning the great palace he never finished at Crest 
Hill and an army of workmen gathered to do his 
bidding, blue marble came from Canada, and timber 
from New Zealand; and beneath it all, you know, 
there was nothing but fictitious values as evanescent 
as rainbow gold. 

§ 4 
I pass the Hardingham ever and again and glance 
aside through the great archway at the fountain and 


the ferns, and think of those receding days when I was 
so near the centre of our eddy of greed and enterprise. 
I see again my uncle's face white and intent, and hear 
him discourse, hear him make consciously Napoleonic 
decisions, " grip " his nettles, put his " finger on the 
spot," " bluff," say " snap." He became particularly 
addicted to the last idiom. Towards the end every 
conceivable act took the form of saying " snap ! " . . . 

The odd fish that came to us ! And among others 
came Gordon-Nasmyth, that queer blend of romance 
and illegality who was destined to drag me into the 
most irrelevant adventure in my life, the Mordet Island 
affair ; and leave me, as they say, with blood upon my 
hands. It is remarkable how little it troubles my 
conscience and how much it stirs my imagination, that 
particular memory of the life I took. The story of 
Mordet Island has been told in a government report 
and told all wrong ; there are still excellent reasons 
for leaving it wrong in places, but the liveliest appeals 
of discretion forbid my leaving it out altogether. 

I've still the vividest memory of Gordon-Nasmyth's 
appearance in the inner sanctum, a lank, sunburnt 
person in tweeds with a yellow-brown, hatchet face and 
one faded blue eye — the other was a closed and sunken 
lid — and how he told us with a stiff affectation of ease 
his incredible story of this great heap of quap that lay 
abandoned or undiscovered on the beach behind 
Mordefs Island among white dead mangroves and the 
black ooze of brackish water. 

" What's quap ? " said my uncle on the fourth 
repetition of the word. 

"They call it quap, or quab, or quabb," said 
Gordon-Nasmyth ; " but our relations weren't friendly 
enough to get the accent right. . . . But there the 


stuff is for the taking. They don't know about it. 
Nobody knows about it. I got down to the damned 
place in a canoe alone. The boys wouldn't come. 
I pretended to be botanizing. 11 . . . 

To begin with, Gordon-Nasmyth was inclined to be 

" Look here, 1 ' he said when he first came in, shutting 
the door rather carefully behind him as he spoke, " do 
you two men — yes or no — want to put up six thousand 
— for a clear good chance of fifteen hundred per cent. 
on your money in a year ? " 

"We're always getting chances like that, 11 said my 
uncle, cocking his cigar offensively, wiping his glasses 
and tilting his chair back. "We stick to a safe 

Goidon-Nasmyth's quick temper showed in a slight 
stiffening of his attitude. 

" Don't you believe him, 11 said I, getting up before 
he could reply. " YoiCre different, and I know your 
books. We're very glad you've come to us. Confound 
it, uncle! It's Gordon-Nasmyth! Sit down. What 
is it ? Minerals ? " 

"Quap," said Gordon-Nasmyth, fixing his eye on 
me, " in heaps." 

" In heaps," said my uncle softly, with his glasses 
very oblique. 

" You're only fit for the grocery," said Gordon- 
Nasmyth scornfully, sitting down and helping himself 
to one of my uncle's cigars. " I'm sorry I came. But, 
still, now I'm here. . . . And first as to quap ; quap, 
sir, is the most radio-active stuff in the world. That's 
quap ! It's a festering mass of earths and heavy metals, 
polonium, radium, ythorium, thorium, carium, and new 
things too. There's a stuff called Xk — provisionally. 


There they are, mucked up together in a sort of rotting 
sand. What it is, how it got made, I don't know. 
It's like as if some young creator had been playing 
about there. There it lies in two heaps, one small, 
one great, and the world for miles about it is blasted 
and scorched and dead. You can have it for the 
getting. You've got to take it — that's all ! " . . . 

" That sounds all right," said I. " Have you 
samples ? " 

" Well — should I ? You can have anything — up to 
two ounces." 

« Where is it ? " . . . 

His blue eye smiled at me and scrutinized me. 
He smoked and was fragmentary for a time, fending off 
my questions ; then his story began to piece itself 
together. He conjured up a vision of this strange 
forgotten kink in the world's littoral, of the long- 
meandering channels that spread and divaricate and 
spend their burthen of mud and silt within the thunder- 
belt of Atlantic surf, of the dense tangled vegetation 
that creeps into the shimmering water with root and 
sucker. He gave a sense of heat and a perpetual reek 
of vegetable decay, and told how at last comes a break 
among these things, an arena fringed with bone-white 
dead trees, a sight of the hard blue sea-line beyond the 
dazzling surf and a wide desolation of dirty shingle and 
mud, bleached and scarred. ... A little way off among 
charred dead weeds stands the abandoned station, — 
abandoned because every man who stayed two months 
at that station stayed to die, eaten up mysteriously 
like a leper — with its dismantled sheds and its decay- 
ing pier of worm-rotten and oblique piles and planks, 
still insecurely possible. x\nd in the midst, two clumsy 
heaps shaped like the backs of hogs, one small, one 


great, sticking out under a rib of rock that cuts the 
space across, — quap ! 

" There it is, 1 ' said Gordon-Nasmyth, " worth three 
pounds an ounce, if it's worth a penny ; two great heaps 
of it, rotten stuff and soft, ready to shovel and wheel, 
and you may get it by the ton ! " 

"How did it get there?" 

" God knows ! . . . There it is — for the taking ! 
In a country where you mustn't trade. In a country 
where the company waits for good kind men to find it 
riches and then take 'em away from 1 era. There you 
have it — derelict. - " 

" Can't you do any sort of deal ? " 

" They're too damned stupid. You've got to go and 
take it. That's all." 

" They might catch you." 

" They might, of course. But they're not great at 

We went into the particulars of that difficult}'. 
" They wouldn't catch me, because I'd sink first. Give 
me a yacht," said Gordon-Nasmyth ; " that's all I need." 

" But if you get caught," said my uncle. . . . 

I am inclined to think Gordon-Nasmyth imagined 
we would give him a cheque for six thousand pounds 
on the strength of his talk. It was very good talk, but 
we didn't do that. I stipulated for samples of his stuff 
for analysis, and he consented — reluctantly. I think, 
on the whole, he would rather I didn't examine samples. 
He made a motion pocketwards, that gave us an 
invincible persuasion that he had a sample upon him, 
and that at the last instant he decided not to produce 
it prematurely. There was evidently a curious strain of 
secretiveness in him. He didn't like to give us samples, 
and he wouldn't indicate within three hundred miles 


the position of this Mordet Island of his. He had it 
clear in his mind that he had a secret of immense value, 
and he had no idea at all of just how far he ought to 
go with business people. And so presently, to gain 
time for these hesitations of his, he began to talk of 
other things. 

He talked very well. He talked of the Dutch East 
Indies and of the Congo, of Portuguese East Africa 
and Paraguay, of Malays and rich Chinese merchants, 
Dyaks and negroes and the spread of the Mahometan 
world in Africa to-day. And all this time he was 
trying to judge if we were good enough to trust with 
his adventure. Our cosy inner office became a little 
place, and all our businesses cold and lifeless exploits 
beside his glimpses of strange minglings of men, of 
slayings unavenged and curious customs, of trade where 
no writs run, and the dark treacheries of eastern ports 
and uncharted channels. 

We had neither of us gone abroad except for a few 
vulgar raids on Paris, our world was England, and the 
places of origin of half the raw material of the goods 
Ave sold had seemed to us as remote as fairyland or 
the forest of Arden. But Gordon-Nasmyth made it so 
real and intimate for us that afternoon — for me, at any 
rate — that it seemed like something seen and forgotten 
and now again remembered. 

And in the end he produced his sample, a little 
lump of muddy clay speckled with brownish grains, in 
a glass bottle wrapped about with lead and flannel — 
red flannel it was, I remember — a hue which is, I know, 
popularly supposed to double all the mystical efficacies 
of flannel. 

" Don't carry it about on you," said Gorclon- 
Nasmvth. " It makes a sore.*' 


I took the stuff to Thorold, and Thorold had the 
exquisite agony of discovering two new elements in 
what was then a confidential analysis. Pie has christened 
them and published since, but at the time Gordon- 
Nasmyth wouldn't hear for a moment of our publication 
of any facts at all ; indeed, he flew into a violent passion 
and abused me mercilessly even for showing the stuff' to 
Thorold. " I thought you were going to analyse it 
yourself, 11 he said with the touching persuasion of the 
layman that a scientific man knows and practises all 
the sciences. 

I made some commercial enquiries, and there seemed 
even then much truth in Gordon-Nasmyth 1 s estimate of 
the value of the stuff. It was before the days of 
Capern's discovery of the value of canadium and his 
use of it in the Capern filament, but the cerium and 
thorium alone were worth the money he extracted for 
the gas-mantles then in vogue. There were, however, 
doubts. Indeed, there were numerous doubts. What 
were the limits of the gas-mantle trade ? How much 
thorium, not to sj>eak of cerium, could they take at a 
maximum. Suppose that quantity was high enough to 
justify our ship-load, came doubts in another quarter. 
Were the heaps up to sample ? Were they as big as 
he said ? Was Gordon-Nasmyth — imaginative ? And 
if these values held, could we after all get the stuff? 
It wasn't ours. It was on forbidden ground. You see, 
there were doubts of every grade and class in the way 
of this adventure. 

We went some way, nevertheless, in the discussion 
of his project, though I think we tried his patience. 
Then suddenly he vanished from London, and I saw no 
more of him for a year and a half. 

My uncle said that was what he had expected, and 


when at last Gordon-Nasmyth reappeared and men- 
tioned in an incidental way that he had been to 
Paraguay on private (and we guessed passionate) affairs, 
the business of the " quap " expedition had to be begun 
again at the beginning. My uncle was disposed to be 
altogether sceptical, but I wasn't so decided. I think 
I was drawn by its picturesque aspects. But we neither 
of us dreamt of touching it seriously until Caperns 
discovery. . . . 

Nasmyth's story had laid hold of my imagination 
like one small, intense picture of tropical sunshine 
hung on a wall of grey business affairs. I kept it going 
during Gordon-Nasmyth 1 s intermittent appearances in 
England. Every now and then he and I would meet 
and reinforce its effect. We would lunch in London, 
or he would come to see my gliders at Crest Hill, and 
make new projects for getting at those heaps again, 
now with me, now alone. At times they became a sort 
of fairy-story with us, an imaginative exercise. And 
then came Caperns discovery of what he called the 
ideal filament, and with it an altogether less pro- 
blematical quality about the business side of quap. 
For the ideal filament needed five per cent, of canadiuni, 
and canadium was known to the world only as a newly 
separated constituent of a variety of the rare mineral 
rutile. But to Thorold it was better known as an 
element in a mysterious sample brought to him by me, 
and to me it was known as one of the elements in quap. 
I told my uncle, and we jumped on to the process at 
once. We found that Gordon-Nasmyth, still unaware 
of the altered value of the stuff, and still thinking of 
the experimental prices of radium and the rarity value 
of cerium, had got hold of a cousin named Pollack, 
made some extraordinary transaction about his life 


insurance policy, and was buying a brig. We cut in, 
put down three thousand pounds and forthwith the 
life insurance transaction and the Pollack side of this 
finance vanished into thin air, leaving Pollack, I regret 
to say, in the brig and in the secret — except so far as 
canadium and the filament went — as residuum. We 
discussed earnestly whether we should charter a steamer 
or go on with the brig, but we decided on the brig as 
a less conspicuous instrument for an enterprise that 
was after all, to put it plainly, stealing. 

But that was one of our last enterprises before our 
great crisis, and I will tell of it in its place. 

So it was quap came into our affairs, came in as a 
fairy-tale and became real. More and more real it 
grew until at last it was real, until at last I saw with 
my eyes the heaps my imagination had seen for so long 
and felt between my fingers again the half-gritty, half- 
soft texture of quap, like sanded moist-sugar mixed 
with clay in which there stirs something 

One must feel it to understand. 

§ 5 

All sorts of things came to the Hardingham and 
offered themselves to my uncle. Gordon -Nas myth 
stands out only because he played a part at last in the 
crisis of our fortunes. So much came to us that it 
seemed to me at times as though the whole world of 
human affairs was ready to prostitute itself to our real 
and imaginary millions. As I look back, I am still 
dazzled and incredulous to think of the quality of our 
opportunities. We did the most extraordinary things ; 
things that it seems absurd to me to leave to any casual 


man of wealth and enterprise who cares to do them. I 
had some amazing perceptions of just how modern 
thought and the supply of fact to the general mind 
may be controlled by money. Among other things that 
my uncle offered for, he tried very hard to buy the 
British Medical Journal and the Lancet, and run them 
on what he called modern lines, and when they resisted 
him he talked very vigorously for a time of organizing 
a rival enterprise. That was a very magnificent idea 
indeed in its way ; it would have given a tremendous 
advantage in the handling of innumerable specialities, 
and indeed I scarcely know how far it would not have 
put the medical profession in our grip. It still amazes 
me — I shall die amazed — that such a thing can be 
possible in the modern state. If my uncle failed to 
bring the thing off, some one else may succeed. But I 
doubt, even if he had got both those weeklies, whether 
his peculiar style would have suited them. The change 
of purpose would have shown. He would have found 
it difficult to keep up their dignity. 

He certainly did not keep up the dignity of the 
Sacred Grove, an important critical organ which he 
acquired one day — by saying " snap " — for eight hundred 
pounds. He got it "lock, stock and barrel 1 ' — under 
one or other of which three aspects the editor was 
included. Even at that price it didn't pay. If you 
are a literary person you will remember the bright new 
cover he gave that representative organ of British 
intellectual culture, and how his sound business instincts 
jarred with the exalted pretensions of a vanishing 
age. One old wrapper I discovered the other day 
runs : — 




A Weekly Magazine of Art, Philosophy, Science and 

Belles Lettres. 

Have you a Nasty Taste in your Mouth? 

It is Liver. 

You need ONE Twenty-Three Pill. 

(Just one.) 

Not a Drexj but a Live American Remedy. 


A Hitherto Unpublished Letter from Walter Pater. 

Charlotte Bronte's Maternal Great Aunt. 

A New Catholic History of England. 

The Genius of Shakespeare. 

Correspondence: — The Mendelian Hypothesis; The 
Split Infinitive; "Commence," or "Begin;" 
Claverhouse ; Socialism and the Individual ; The 
Dignity of Letters. 

Folk-lore Gossip. 

The Stage ; the Paradox of Acting. 

Travel, Biography, Verse, Fiction, etc. 

The Best Pill in the World for an Irregular Liver. 

I suppose it is some lingering traces of the Blades- 
over tradition in me that makes this combination of 
letters and pills seem so incongruous, just as I suppose it 
is a lingering trace of Plutarch and my ineradicable 
boyish imagination that at bottom our State should be 
wise, sane and dignified, that makes me think a country 


which loaves its medical and literary criticism, or 
indeed any such vitally important criticism, entirely to 
private enterprise and open to the advances of any 
purchaser must be in a frankly hopeless condition. 
These are ideal conceptions of mine. As a matter of 
fact, nothing could be more entirely natural and repre- 
sentative of the relations of learning, thought and the 
economic situation in the world at the present time than 
this cover of the Sacred Grove — the quiet conservatism 
of the one element embedded in the aggressive brilliance 
of the other ; the contrasted notes of bold physiological 
experiment and extreme mental immobility. 


There comes back, too, among these Hardingham 
memories an impression of a drizzling November day, 
and how we looked out of the windows upon a pro- 
cession of the London unemployed. 

It was like looking down a well into some momen- 
tarily revealed nether world. Some thousands of needy 
ineffectual men had been raked together to trail their 
spiritless misery through the West End with an appeal 
that was also in its way a weak and unsubstantial 
threat : " It is Work we need, not Charity." 

There they were, half-phantom through the fog, a 
silent, foot-dragging, interminable, grey procession. 
They carried wet, dirty banners, they rattled boxes for 
pence ; these men who had not said " snap " in the 
right place, the men who had " snapped " too eagerly, 
the men who had never said " snap," the men who had 
never had a chance of saying " snap."" A shambling, 
shameful stream they made, oozing along the street, the 


gutter waste of competitive civilization. And we stood 
high out of it all, as high as if we looked godlike from 
another world, standing in a room beautifully lit and 
furnished, skilfully warmed, filled with costly things. 

" There," thought I, " but for the grace of God, go 
George and Edward Ponderevo." 

But my uncle's thoughts ran in a different channel, 
and he made that vision the text of a spirited but 
inconclusive harangue upon Tariff Reform. 


Our Progress from Camden Town to 
Crest Hill 


So far my history of my aunt and uncle has dealt 

chiefly with his industrial and financial exploits. But 

side by side with that history of inflation from the 

infinitesimal to the immense is another development, 

the change year by year from the shabby impecuniosity 

of the Camden Town lodging to the lavish munificence 

of the Crest Hill marble staircase and my aunt's golden 

bed, the bed that was facsimiled from Fontainebleau. 

And the odd thing is that as I come to this nearer part 

of my story I find it much more difficult to tell than 

the clear little perspective memories of the earlier 

days. Impressions crowd upon one another and overlap 

one another ; I was presently to fall in love again, to 

be seized by a passion to which I still faintly respond, 

a passion that still clouds my mind. I came and 

went between Ealing and my aunt and uncle, and 

presently between Effie and clubland, and then between 

business and a life of research that became far more 

continuous, infinitely more consecutive and memorable 

than any of these other sets of experiences. I didn't 

witness a regular social progress therefore ; my aunt 

289 u 


and uncle went up in the world so far as I was con- 
cerned as if they were displayed by an early cinemato- 
graph, with little jumps and flickers. 

As I recall this side of our life, the figure of my 
round-eyed, button-nosed, pink-and-white Aunt Susan 
tends always to the central position. We drove the car 
and sustained the car, she sat in it with a magnificent 
variety of headgear poised upon her delicate neck, and — 
always with that faint ghost of a lisp no misspelling 
can render — commented on and illuminated the new 

I've already sketched the little home behind the 
Wimblehurst chemist's shop, the lodging near the 
Cobden statue, and the apartments in Gower Street. 
Thence my aunt and uncle went into a flat in Red- 
gauntlet Mansions. There they lived when I married. 
It was a compact flat, with very little for a woman to do 
in it. In those days my aunt, I think, used to find the 
time heavy upon her hands, and so she took to books and 
reading, and after a time even to going to lectures in 
the afternoon. I began to find unexpected books upon 
her table ; sociological books, travels, Shaw's plays. 

" Hullo ! " I said, at the sight of some volume of the 

" I'm keeping a mind, George," she explained. 

« Eh ? " 

"Keeping a mind. Dogs I never cared for. It's 
been a toss-up between setting up a mind and setting up 
a soul. It's jolly lucky for Him and you it's a mind. I've 
joined the London Library, and I'm going in for the 
Royal Institution and every blessed lecture that comes 
along next winter. You'd better look out." . . . 

And I remember her coming in late one evening 
with a note-book in her hand. 


" Where ye been, Susan ? " said my uncle. 

" Birkbeck — Physiology. I'm getting on." She sat 
down and took off her gloves. " You're just glass to 
Dae," she sighed, and then in a note of grave reproach : 
" You old Pad-age ! I had no idea ! The Things you've 

om me 


kept fr 

Presently they were setting up the house at Becken- 
ham, and my aunt intermitted her intellectual activities. 
The house at Beckenham was something of an enter- 
prise for them at that time, a reasonably large place 
by the standards of the early years of Tono-Bungay. 
It was a big, rather gaunt villa, with a conservatory 
and a shrubbery, a tennis-lawn, a quite considerable 
vegetable garden, and a small disused coach-house. I 
had some glimpses of the excitements of its inaugura- 
tion, but not many because of the estrangement between 
my aunt and Marion. 

My aunt went into that house with considerable zest, 
and my uncle distinguished himself by the thoroughness 
with which he did the repainting and replumbing. He 
had all the drains up and most of the garden with them, 
and stood administrative on heaps — administrating 
whisky to the workmen. I found him there one day, 
most Napoleonic, on a little Elba of dirt, in an atmo- 
sphere that defies print. He also, I remember, chose 
what he considered cheerful contrasts of colours for the 
painting of the woodwork. This exasperated my aunt 
extremely — she called him a " Pestilential old Splosher " 
with an unusual note of earnestness — and he also 
enraged her into novelties of abuse by giving each 
bedroom the name of some favourite hero — Clive, 
Napoleon, Caesar, and so forth — and having it painted 
on the door in gilt letters on a black label. " Martin 
Luther " was kept for me. Only her respect for domestic 


discipline, she said, prevented her retaliating with " Old 
Pondo " on the housemaid's cupboard. 

Also he went and ordered one of the completest sets 
of garden requisites I have ever seen — and had them 
all painted a hard clear blue. My aunt got herself large 
tins of a kindlier hued enamel and had everything 
secretly recoated, and this done, she found great joy in 
the garden and became an ardent rose grower and 
herbaceous borderer, leaving her Mind, indeed, to damp 
evenings and the winter months. When I think of her 
at Beckenham, I always think first of her as dressed in 
that blue cotton stuff she affected, with her arms in 
huge gauntleted gardening gloves, a trowel in one hand 
and a small but no doubt hardy and promising annual, 
limp and very young-looking and sheepish, in the 

Beckenham, in the persons of a vicar, a doctor's wife, 
and a large proud lady called Hogberry, " called " on 
my uncle and aunt almost at once, so soon in fact as the 
lawn was down again, and afterwards my aunt made 
friends with a quiet gentlewoman next door, a propos 
of an overhanging cherry tree and the need of repairing 
the party fence. So she resumed her place in society 
from which she had fallen with the disaster of Wimble- 
hurst. She made a partially facetious study of the 
etiquette of her position, had cards engraved and 
retaliated calls. And then she received a card for one 
of Mrs. Hogberry's At Homes, gave an old garden 
party herself, participated in a bazaar and sale of work, 
and was really becoming quite cheerfully entangled in 
Beckenham society when she was suddenly taken up by 
the roots again by my uncle and transplanted to 

" Old Trek, George, 1 '' she said compactly, " Onward 


and Up,"' when I found her superintending the loading 
of two big furniture vans. " Go up and say good-bye 
to ' Martin Luther, 1 and then 111 see what you can do 
to help me. 1 ' 

I look into the jumbled stores of the middle distance 
of memory, and Beckenham seems to me a quite tran- 
sitory phase. But really they were there several years ; 
through nearly all my married life in fact, and far longer 
than the year and odd months we lived together at 
Wimblehurst. But the Wimblehurst time with them 
is fuller in my memory by far than the Beckenham 
period. There comes back to me with a quite consider- 
able amount of detail the effect of that garden party of 
my aunt's and of a little social misbehaviour of which 
I was guilty on that occasion. It's like a scrap from 
another life. It's all set in what is for me a kind of 
cutaneous feeling, the feeling of rather ill-cut city 
clothes, frock coat and grey trousers, and of a high 
collar and tie worn in sunshine among flowers. I have 
still a quite vivid memory of the little trapezoidal lawn, 
of the gathering and particularly of the hats and 
feathers of the gathering, of the parlour-maid and the 
blue tea-cups, and of the magnificent presence of Mrs. 
Hogberry and of her clear resonant voice. It was a 
voice that would have gone with a garden party on a 
larger scale ; it went into adjacent premises ; it included 
the gardener who was far up the vegetable patch and 
technically out of play. The only other men were my 
aunt's doctor, two of the clergy, amiable contrasted 
men, and Mrs. Hogberry 's imperfectly grown-up son, 
a youth just bursting into collar. The rest were 


women, except for a young girl or so in a state of 
speechless good behaviour. Marion also was there. 

Marion and I had arrived a little estranged, and I 
remember her as a silent presence, a shadow across all 
that sunlit emptiness of intercourse. We had em- 
bittered each other with one of those miserable little 
disputes that seemed so unavoidable between us. She 
had, with the help of Smithie, dressed rather elaborately 
for the occasion, and when she saw me prepared to 
accompany her in, I think it was a grey suit, she pro- 
tested that silk hat and frock coat were imperative. 
I was recalcitrant, she quoted an illustrated paper 
showing a garden party with the King present, and 
finally I capitulated — but after my evil habit, resent- 
fully. . . . Eh dear ! those old quarrels, how pitiful 
they were, how trivial ! And how sorrowful they are 
to recall ! I think they grow more sorrowful as I grow 
older, and all the small passionate reasons for our 
mutual anger fade and fade out of memory. 

The impression that Beckenham company has left on 
my mind is one of a modest unreality ; they were all 
maintaining a front of unspecified social pretension, and 
evading the display of the economic facts of the case. 
Most of the husbands were " in business " off stage — it 
would have been outrageous to ask what the business 
was — and the wives were giving their energies to pro- 
duce with the assistance of novels and the illustrated 
magazines, a moralized version of the afternoon life of 
the aristocratic class. They hadn't the intellectual or 
moral enterprise of the upper-class woman, they had 
no political interests, they had no views about anything, 
and consequently they were, I remember, extremely 
difficult to talk to. They all sat about in the summer- 
house and in garden-chairs, and were very hatty and 


ruffley and sunshadey. Three ladies and the curate 
played croquet with a general immense gravity 
broken by occasional loud ci*ies of feigned distress 
from the curate. " Oh ! Whacking me about again ! 
Augh ! " 

The dominant social fact that afternoon was Mrs. 
Hogberry ; she took up a certain position commanding 
the croquet and went on, as my aunt said to me in an 
incidental aside, " like an old Roundabout." She 
talked of the way in which Beckenham society was 
getting mixed, and turned on to a touching letter she 
had recently received from her former nurse at Little 
Gossdean. Followed a loud account of Little Gossdean 
and how much she and her eight sisters had been looked 
up to there. " My poor mother was quite a little 
Queen there," she said. " And such nice Common 
People ! People say the country labourers are getting 
disrespectful nowadays. It isn't so — not if they're 
properly treated. Here of course in Beckenham it's 
different. I don't call the people we get here a Poor — 
they're certainly not a proper Poor. They're Masses. 
I always tell Mr. Bugshoot they're Masses, and ought 
to be treated as such." . . . 

Dim memories of Mrs. Mackridge floated through 
my mind as I listened to her. . . . 

I was whirled on this roundabout for a bit, and then 
had the fortune to fall off into a tete-a-tete with a lady 
whom my aunt introduced as Mrs. Mumble — but then 
she introduced everybody to me as Mumble that after- 
noon, either by way of humour or necessity. 

That must have been one of my earliest essays m 
the art of polite conversation, and I remember that I 
began by criticizing the local railway service, and that 
at the third sentence or thereabouts Mrs. Mumble said 


in a distinctly bright and encouraging way that she 
feared I was a very " frivolous " person. 

I wonder now what it was I said that was 
" frivolous." 

I don't know what happened to end that conversa- 
tion, or if it had an end. I remember talking to one 
of the clergy for a time rather awkwardly, and being 
given a sort of topographical history of Beckenham, 
which he assured me time after time, was " Quite an 
old place. Quite an old place." As though I had 
treated it as new and he meant to be very patient but 
very convincing. Then we hung up in a distinct pause, 
and my aunt rescued me. " George," she said in a 
confidential undertone, " keep the pot-a-boiling." And 
then audibly, " I say, will you both old trot about with 
tea a bit ? " 

" Only too delighted to trot for you, Mrs. Ponde- 
revo," said the clergyman, becoming fearfully expert 
and in his element ; " only too delighted." 

I found we were near a rustic table, and that the 
housemaid was behind us in a suitable position to 
catch us on the rebound with the tea things. 

" Trot ! " repeated the clergyman to me, much 
amused ; " excellent expression ! " and I just saved him 
from the tray as he turned about. 

We handed tea for a while 

" Give 'em cakes," 1 said my aunt, flushed but well in 
hand, " Helps 'em to talk, George. Always talk best 
after a little nushment. Like throwing a bit of turf 
down an old geyser." 

She surveyed the gathering with a predominant blue 
eye and helped herself to tea. 

" They keep on going stiff," she said in an undertone. 
..." I've done my best." 


" It's been a huge success," I said encouragingly. 

" That boy has had his legs crossed in that position 
and hasn't spoken for ten minutes. Stiffer and stiffer. 
Brittle. He's beginning a dry cough — always a bad 
sign, George. . . . Walk "em about, shall I ? — rub their 
noses with snow ? " 

Happily she didn't. I got myself involved with the 
gentlewoman from next door, a pensive, languid- 
looking little woman with a low voice, and fell talking ; 
our topic, Cats and Dogs, and which it was we liked best. 

" I always feel,"" said the pensive little woman, " that 

there's something about a dog . A cat hasn't 

got it." 

" Yes," I found myself admitting with great enthusi- 
asm, " there is something. And yet again ." 

" Oh ! I know there's something about a cat too. 
But it isn't the same." 

"Not quite the same," I admitted; "but still it's 

" Ah ! But such a different something ! " 

"More sinuous." 

" Much more." 

" Ever so much more." . . . 

" It makes all the difference, don't you think ? " 

" Yes," I said, " air 

She glanced at me gravely and sighed a long, deep- 
felt " Yes? 

A long pause. 

The thing seemed to me to amount to a stale-mate. 
Fear came into my heart and much perplexity. 

" The -er, Roses," I said. I felt like a drowning 
man. "Those roses — don't you think they are — very 
beautiful flowers ? " 

" Aren't they ! " she agreed gently. " There seems 


to be something in roses — something — I don't know 
how to express it." 

" Something," I said helpfully. 

" Yes," she said, " something. Isn't there ? " 

" So few people see it," I said ; " more's the pity ! " 

She sighed and said again very softly, " Yes." . . . 

There was another long pause. I looked at her, and 
she was thinking dreamilv. The drowning sensation 
returned, the fear and enfeeblement. I perceived by 
a sort of inspiration that her tea-cup was empty. 

" Let me take your cup," I said abruptly, and, that 
secured, made for the table by the summer-house. I 
had no intention then of deserting my aunt. But close 
at hand the big French window of the drawing-room 
vawned inviting: and suo-o-estive. I can feel all that 
temptation now, and particularly the provocation of 

my collar. In an instant I was lost. I would . 

Just for a moment ! 

I dashed in, put down the cup on the keys of the 
grand piano and fled upstairs, softly, swiftly, three 
steps at a time, to the sanctuary of my uncle's study, 
his snuggery. I arrived there breathless, convinced 
there was no return for me. I was very glad and 
ashamed of myself and desperate. By means of a pen- 
knife I contrived to break open his cabinet of cigars, 
drew a chair to the window, took off my coat, collar 
and tie, and remained smoking guiltily and rebelliously, 
and peeping through the blind at the assembly on the 
lawn until it was altogether gone. . . . 

The clergymen, I thought, were wonderful. 

A few such pictures of those early days at Becken- 
ham stand out, and then I find myself among the 


Chislehurst memories. The Chislehurst mansion had 
"grounds 1 ' rather than a mere garden, and there was 
a gardener's cottage and a little lodge at the gate. 
The ascendant movement was always far more in 
evidence there than at Beckenham. The velocity was 

One night picks itself out as typical, as in its way 
marking an epoch. I was there, I think, about some 
advertisement stuff, on some sort of business anyhow, 
and my uncle and aunt had come back in a fly from a 
dinner at the Runcorns. (Even then he was nibbling 
at Runcorn with the idea of our great Amalgamation 
budding in his mind.) I got down there, I suppose, 
about eleven. I found the two of them sitting in the 
study, my aunt on a chair-arm with a whimsical 
pensiveness on her face, regarding my uncle, and he, 
much extended and very rotund, in the low armchair 
drawn up to the fender. 

"Look here, George, 11 said my uncle after my first 
greetings, " I just been saying ; We aren't Oh Fay ! " 

"Eh? 11 

" Not Oh Fay ! Socially ! " 

" Old Fly, he means, George — French ! " 

" Oh ! Didn't think of French. One never knows 
where to have him. What's gone wrong to-night?" 

"I been thinking. It isn't any particular thing. 
I ate too much of that fishy stuff at first, like salt frog- 
spawn, and was a bit confused by olives ; and — well, I 
didn't know which wine was which. Had to say that 
each time. It puts your talk all wrong. And she 
wasn't in evening dress, not like the others. We can't 
go on in that style, George — not a proper ad'." 

" I'm not sure you were right," I said, " in having 
a fly." 


" We got to do it all better," said my uncle, " we 
got to do it in Style. Smart business, smart men. 
She tries to pass it off as humorous " — my aunt pulled 
a grimace—" it isn't humorous ! See ! We're on the 
up-grade now, fair and square. We're going to be big. 
We aren't going to be laughed at as Poovenoos, see ! " 

" Nobody laughed at you," said my aunt. " Old 
Bladder!" ' 

" Nobody isn't going to laugh at me," said my uncle, 
glancing at his contours and suddenly sitting up. 

My aunt raised her eyebrows slightly, swung her 
foot, and said nothing:. 

"We aren't keeping pace with our own progress, 
George. We got to. We're bumping against new 
people, and they set up to be gentlefolks— etiquette 
dinners and all the rest of it. They give themselves 
airs and expect us to be fish-out-of-water. We aren't 
going to be. They think we've no Style. Well, we 
give them Style for our advertisements, and we're going 
to give 'em Style all through. . . . You needn't be born 
to it to dance well on the wires of the Bond Street 
tradesmen. See ? " 

I handed him the cigar-box. 

"Runcorn hadn't cigars like these," he said, trun- 
cating one lovingly. " We beat him at cigars. We'll 
beat him all round." 

My aunt and I regarded him, full of apprehensions. 

" I got idees," he said darkly to the cigar, deepening 
our dread. 

He pocketed his cigar-cutter and spoke again. 

" We got to learn all the rotten little game first. 
See? F'rinstance, we got to get samples of all the 
blessed wines there are — and learn 'em up. Stern, 
Smoor, Burgundy, all of 'em ! She took Stern to-night 


— and when she tasted it first . You pulled a face, 

Susan, you did. I saw you. It surprised you. You 
bunched your nose. We got to get used to wine and 
not do that. We got to get used to wearing evening 
dress — you, Susan, too.'" 

" Always have had a tendency to stick out of my 

clothes," said my aunt. " However . Who cares ? " n 

She shrugged her shoulders. 

1 had never seen my uncle so immensely serious. 

" Got to get the hang of etiquette, 11 he went on to 
the fire. " Horses even. Practise everything. Dine 
every night in evening dress. . . . Get a brougham or 
something. Learn up golf and tennis and things. 
Country gentleman. Oh Fay. It isn't only freedom 
from Goochery. 11 

" Eh ? " I said. 

" Oh !— Gawshery, if you like ! " 

"French, George, 11 said my aunt. " But Pm not old 
Gooch. I made that face for fun. 11 

" It isn't only freedom from Gawshery. We got to 
have Style. See ! Style ! Just all right and one better. 
That's what I call Style. We can do it, and we will. 11 

He mumbled his cigar and smoked for a space, 
leaning forward and looking into the fire. 

" What is it, 11 he asked, " after all ? What is it ? 
Tips about eating; tips about drinking. Clothes. 
How to hold yourself, and not say jes 1 the few little 
things they know for certain are wrong — jes 1 the 
shibboleth things. 11 . . . 

He was silent again, and the cigar crept up from the 
horizontal towards the zenith as the confidence of his 
mouth increased. 

" Learn the whole bag of tricks in six months, 11 he 
said, becoming more cheerful. " Eh, Susan ? Beat 'em 


out ! George, you in particular ought to get hold of it. 
Ought to get into a good club, and all that. 11 

" Always ready to learn, 11 I said. " Ever since you 
gave me the chance of Latin. So far we don 1 t seem 
to have hit upon any Latin-speaking stratum in the 
population. 11 

" We've come to French," said my aunt, " anyhow. 1 ' 
" It's a very useful language, 11 said my uncle. " Puts 
a point on things. Zzzz. As for accent, no English- 
man has an accent. No Englishman pronounces French 
properly. Don't you tell me. It's a Bluff. It's all a 
Bluff. Life's a Bluff— practically. That's why it's so 
important, Susan, for us to attend to Style. Le Steel 
Sa} r Lum. The Style it's the man. Whad you laughing 
at, Susan ? . . . George, you're not smoking. These 
cigars are good for the mind. . . . What do you think 
of it all ? We got to adapt ourselves. We have — so 
far. . . . Not going to be beat by these silly things." 

§ ^ 

" What do you think of it, George ? " he insisted. 

What I said I thought of it I don't now recall. 
Only I have very distinctly the impression of meeting 
for a moment my aunt's impenetrable eye. And anyhow 
he started in with his accustomed energy to rape the 
mysteries of the Costly Life, and become the calmest of 
its lords. On the whole I think he did it — thoroughly. 
I have crowded memories, a little difficult to disentangle, 
of his experimental stages, his experimental proceedings. 
It's hard at times to say which memory comes in front 
of which. I recall him as presenting on the whole a 
series of small surprises, as being again and again, 
unexpectedly, a little more self-confident, a little more 


polished, a little richer and finer, a little more 
aware of the positions and values of things and 
men. There was a time — it must have been very early 
— when I saw him deeply impressed by the splendours 
of the dining-room of the National Liberal Club. 
Heaven knows who our host was or what that particular 
little " feed " was about now ! — all that sticks is the 
impression of our straggling entry, a string of six or 
seven guests, and my uncle looking about him at the 
numerous bright red-shaded tables, at the exotics in 
great Majolica jars, at the shining ceramic columns and 
pilasters, at the impressive portraits of Liberal statesmen 
and heroes, and all that contributes to the ensemble of 
that palatial spectacle. He was betrayed into a whisper 
to me, " This is all Right, George ! -' he said. That 
artless comment seems almost incredible as I set it 
down ; there came a time so speedily when not even the 
clubs of New York could have overawed my uncle, and 
when he could walk through the bowing magnificence of 
the Royal Grand Hotel to his chosen table in that 
aggressively exquisite gallery upon the river, with all 
the easy calm of one of earth's legitimate kings. 

The two of them learnt the new game rapidly and 
well ; they experimented abroad, they experimented at 
home. At Chislehurst, with the aid of a new, very 
costly, but highly instructive cook, they tried over 
everything they heard of that roused their curiosity and 
had any reputation for difficulty, from asparagus to 
plover's eggs. They afterwards got a gardener who 
could wait at table — and he brought the soil home to 
one. Then there came a butler. 

I remember my aunt's first dinner-gown very 
brightly, and how she stood before the fire in the 
drawing-room confessing once unsuspected pretty arms 

304 T0N0-BUNGAY 

with all the courage she possessed, and looking over 
her shoulder at herself in a mirror. 

" A ham, 1 ' she remarked reflectively, " must feel like 
this. Just a necklace.'' 1 . . . 

I attempted, I think, some commonplace compliment. 

My uncle appeared at the door in a white waistcoat 
and with his hands in his trouser pockets ; he halted 
and surveyed her critically. 

"Couldn't tell you from a duchess, Susan,'" he 
remarked. " I'd like to have you painted, standin 1 at 
the fire like that. Sargent ! You look — spirited, some- 
how. Lord ! — I wish some of those damned tradesmen 
at Wimblehurst could see you." . . . 

They did a lot of week-ending at hotels, and some- 
times I went down with them. We seemed to fall into 
a vast drifting crowd of social learners. I don't know 
whether it is due simply to my changed circumstances, 
but it seems to me there have been immensely dispro- 
portionate developments of the hotel-frequenting and 
restaurant-using population during the last twenty 
years. It is not only, I think, that there are crowds 
of people who, like we were, are in the economically 
ascendant phase, but whole masses of the prosperous 
section of the population must be altering its habits, 
giving up high-tea for dinner and taking to evening 
dress, using the week-end hotels as a practice-ground 
for these new social arts. A swift and systematic con- 
version to gentility has been going on, I am convinced, 
throughout the whole commercial upper-middle class 
since I was twenty-one. Curiously mixed was the 
personal quality of the people one saw in these raids. 
There were conscientiously refined and low-voiced 
people reeking with proud bashfulness ; there were 
aggressively smart people using pet diminutives for 


each other loudly and seeking fresh occasions for 
brilliant rudeness ; there were awkward husbands and 
wives quarrelling furtively about their manners and ill 
at ease under the eye of the waiter — cheerfully amiable 
and often discrepant couples with a disposition to 
inconspicuous corners, and the jolly sort, affecting an 
unaffected ease ; plump happy ladies who laughed too 
loud, and gentlemen in evening dress who subsequently 
"got their pipes.*" And nobody, you knew, was any- 
body, however expensively they dressed and whatever 
rooms thev took. 

I look back now with a curious remoteness of spirit 
to those crowded dining-rooms with their dispersed 
tables and their inevitable red-shaded lights and the 
unsympathetic, unskilful waiters, and the choice of 
" Thig or Glear, Sir P" I've not dined in that way, in 
that sort of place, now for five years — it must be quite 
five years, so specialized and narrow is my life becoming. 

My uncle's earlier motor-car phases work in with 
these associations, and there stands out a little blight 
vignette of the hall of the Magnificent, Bexhill-on-Sea, 
and people dressed for dinner and sitting about amidst 
the scarlet furniture-satin and white enamelled wood- 
work until the gong should gather them ; and my aunt is 
there, very marvellously wrapped about in a dust cloak 
and a cage-like veil, and there are hotel porters and 
under-porters very alert, and an obsequious manager, 
and the tall young lady in black from the office is 
surprised into admiration, and in the middle of the 
picture is my uncle making his first appearance in that 
Esquimaux costume I have already mentioned, a short 
figure, compactly immense, hugely goggled, wearing a 
sort of brown rubber proboscis, and surmounted by a 
table-land of motoring cap. 




So it was we recognized our new needs as fresh 
invaders of the upper levels of the social system, and 
set ourselves quite consciously to the acquisition of 
Style and Savoir Faire. We became part of what is 
nowadays quite an important element in the confusion 
of our world, that multitude of economically ascendant 
people who are learning how to spend money. It is 
made up of financial people, the owners of the businesses 
that are eating up their competitors, inventors of new 
sources of wealth such as ourselves ; it includes nearly 
all America as one sees it on the European stage. It 
is a various multitude having only this in common ; 
they are all moving, and particularly their womenkind 
are moving, from conditions in which means were 
insistently finite, things were few and customs simple, 
towards a limitless expenditure and the sphere of 
attraction of Bond Street, Fifth Avenue, and Taris. 
Their general effect is one of progressive revelation, of 
limitless rope. 

They discover suddenly indulgences their moral code 
never foresaw and has no provision for, elaborations, 
ornaments, possessions beyond their wildest dreams. 
With an immense astonished zest they begin shopping, 
begin a systematic adaptation to a new life crowded 
and brilliant with things shopped, with jewels, maids, 
butlers, coachmen, electric broughams, hired town and 
country houses. They plunge into it as one plunges 
into a career ; as a class, they talk, think, and dream 
possessions. Their literature, their Press, turns all on 
that ; immense illustrated weeklies of unsurpassed mag- 
nificence guide them in domestic architecture, in the 


art of owning a garden, in the achievement of the 
sumptuous in motor-cars, in an elaborate sporting 
equipment, in the purchase and control of their estates, 
in travel and stupendous hotels. Once they begin to 
move they go far and fast. Acquisition becomes the 
substance of their lives. They find a world organized 
to gratify that passion. In a brief year or so they 
are connoisseurs. They join in the plunder of the 
eighteenth century, buy rare old books, fine old 
pictures, good old furniture. Their first crude con- 
ception of dazzling suites of the newly perfect is 
replaced almost from the outset by a jackdaw dream 
of accumulating costly discrepant old things. . . . 

I seem to remember my uncle taking to shopping 
quite suddenly. In the Beckenham days and in the 
early Chislehurst days he was chiefly interested in 
getting money, and except for his onslaught on the 
Beckenham house, bothered very little about his 
personal surroundings and possessions. I forget now 
when the change came and he began to spend. Some 
accident must have revealed to him this new source of 
power, or some subtle shifting occurred in the tissues 
of his brain. He began to spend and "shop.'''' So 
soon as he began to shop, he began to shop violently. 
He began buying pictures, and then, oddly enough, 
old clocks. For the Chislehurst house he bought nearly 
a dozen grandfather clocks and three copper warming 
pans. After that he bought much furniture. Then 
he plunged into art patronage, and began to commission 
pictures and to make presents to churches and institu- 
tions. His buying increased with a regular acceleration. 
Its development was a part of the mental changes that 
came to him in the wild excitements of the last four 
years of his ascent. Towards the climax he was a 


furious spender ; he shopped with large unexpected 
purchases, he shopped like a mind seeking expression, 
he shopped to astonish and dismay ; shopped crescendo, 
shopped fortissimo, con molto expressions until the mag- 
nificent smash of Crest Hill ended his shopping for 
ever. Always it was he who shopped. My aunt did 
not shine as a purchaser. It is a curious thing, due to 
I know not what fine strain in her composition, that 
my aunt never set any great store upon possessions. 
She plunged through that crowded bazaar of Vanity 
Fair during those feverish years, spending no doubt 
freely and largely, but spending with detachment and 
a touch of humorous contempt for the things, even the 
" old " things, that money can buy. It came to me 
suddenly one afternoon just how detached she was, as 
I saw her going towards the Hardingham, sitting up 
as she always did rather stiffly in her electric brougham, 
regarding the glittering world with interested and ironic- 
ally innocent blue eyes from under the brim of a hat that 
defied comment. " No one, 11 I thought, " would sit so 
apart if she hadn't dreams — and what are her dreams ? " 

I'd never thought. 

And I remember too, an outburst of scornful 
description after she had lunched with a party of 
women at the Imperial Cosmic Club. She came round 
to my rooms on the chance of finding me there, and 
I gave her tea. She professed herself tired and cross, 
and flung herself into my chair. . . . 

" George, 11 she cried, " the Things women are ! 
Do / stink of money ? 11 

" Lunching ? " I asked. 

She nodded. 

" Plutocratic ladies ? " 

" Yes." 


" Oriental type ? " 

"Oh! Like a burst hareem ! . . . Bragging of 
possessions. . . . They feel you. They feel your 
clothes, George, to see if they are good ! w 

I soothed her as well as I could. "They are Good, 
aren't they ? " I said. 

" It's the old pawnshop in their blood," 11 she said, 
drinking tea ; and then in infinite disgust, " They run 
their hands over your clothes — they paw you." 

I had a moment of doubt whether perhaps she had 
not been discovered in possession of unsuspected 
forgeries. I don't know. After that my eyes were 
quickened, and I began to see for myself women running 
their hands over other women's furs, scrutinizing their 
lace, even demanding to handle jewellery, appraising, 
envying, testing. They have a kind of etiquette. The 
woman who feels says, " What beautiful sables ! " 
" What lovely lace ! " The woman felt admits proudly : 
" It's Real, you know," or disavows pretension modestly 
and hastily, " It's not Good." In each other's houses 
they peer at the pictures, handle the selvage of hangings, 
look at the bottoms of china. . . . 

I wonder if it is the old pawnshop in the blood. 

I doubt if Lady Drew and the Olympians did that 
sort of thing, but there I may be only clinging to 
another of my former illusions about aristocracy and 
the State. Perhaps always possessions have been 
Booty, and never anywhere has there been such a thing 
as house and furnishings native and natural to the 
women and men who made use of them. . . . 

§ 6 

For me, at least, it marked an epoch in my uncle's 
career when I learnt one day that he had " shopped " 

3 io T0N0-BUNGAY 

Lady Grove. I realized a fresh, wide, unpreluded step. 
He took me by surprise with the sudden change of 
scale from such portable possessions as jewels and 
motor-cars to a stretch of countryside. The trans- 
action was Napoleonic ; he was told of the place ; he 
said " snap ; " there were no preliminary desirings or 
searchings. Then he came home and said what he had 
done. Even my aunt was for a day or so measurably 
awe-stricken by this exploit in purchase, and we both 
went down with him to see the house in a mood near 
consternation. It struck us then as a very lordly place 
indeed. I remember the three of us standing on the 
terrace that looked westward, surveying the sky-reflect- 
ing windows of the house, and a feeling of unwarrantable 
intrusion comes back to me. 

Lady Grove, you know, is a very beautiful house 
indeed, a still and gracious place, whose age-long seclusion 
was only effectively broken with the toot of the coming 
of the motor-car. An old Catholic family had died out 
in it, century by century, and was now altogether dead. 
Portions of the fabric are thirteenth century, and its 
last architectural revision was Tudor ; within, it is for 
the most part dark and chilly, save for two or three 
favoured rooms and its tall-windowed, oak-galleried 
hall. Its terrace is its noblest feature, a very wide, 
broad lawn it is, bordered by a low stone battlement, 
and there is a great cedar in one corner under whose 
level branches one looks out across the blue distances 
of the Weald — blue distances that are made extra- 
ordinarily Italian in quality by virtue of the dark 
masses of that single tree. It is a very high terrace ; 
southward one looks down upon the tops of wayfaring 
trees and spruces, and westward on a steep slope of 
beechwood, through which the road comes. One turns 


back to the still old house, and sees a grey and licheuous 
fagade with a very finely arched entrance. It was 
warmed by the afternoon light and touched with the 
colour of a few neglected roses and a pyracanthus. It 
seemed to me that the most modern owner conceivable 
in this serene fine place was some bearded scholarly 
man in a black cassock, gen tie- voiced and white-handed, 
or some very soft-robed, grey gentlewoman. And there 
was my uncle holding his goggles in a sealskin glove, 
wiping the glass with a pocket-handkerchief, and asking 
my aunt if Lady Grove wasn't a " Bit of all Right." 

My aunt made him no answer. 

"The man who built this,* 1 I speculated, "wore 
armour and carried a sword."" 

" There's some of it inside still, 11 said my uncle. 

We went inside. An old woman with very white 
hair was in charge of the place, and cringed rather 
obviously to the new master. She evidently found him 
a very strange and frightful apparition indeed, and was 
dreadfully afraid of him. But if the surviving present 
bowed down to us, the past did not. We stood up 
to the dark long portraits of the extinguished race — 
one was a Holbein — and looked them in their sidelong 
eyes. They looked back at us. We all, I know, felt 
the enigmatical quality in them. Even my uncle was 
momentarily embarrassed I think, by that invincibly 
self-complacent expression. It was just as though, after 
all, he had not bought them up and replaced them 
altogether, as though that, secretly, they knew better 
and could smile at him. . . . 

The spirit of the place was akin to Bladesover but 
touched with something older and remoter. That 
armour that stood about had once served in tilt-yards, if 
indeed it had not served in battle, and this family had 



sent its blood and treasure, time after time, upon the 
most romantic quest in history, to Palestine. Dreams, 
loyalties, place and honour, how utterly had it all 
evaporated, leaving at last, the final expression of its 
spirit, these quaint painted smiles, these smiles of 
triumphant completion. It had evaporated, indeed, 
long before the ultimate Durgan had died, and in his 
old age he had cumbered the place with Early Victorian 
cushions and carpets and tapestry table-cloths and 
invalid appliances of a type even more extinct it seemed 
to us than the crusades. . . . Yes, it was different from 

" Bit stuffy, George,' 1 said my uncle. " They hadn't 
much idee of ventilation when this was built. 1 ' 

One of the panelled rooms was half-filled with 
presses and a four-poster bed. " Might be the ghost 
room, 11 said my uncle ; but it did not seem to me that 
so retiring a family as the Durgans, so old and com- 
pleted and exhausted a family as the Durgans, was 
likely to haunt anybody. What living thing now had 
any concern with their honour and judgments and good 
and evil deeds ? Ghosts and witchcraft were a later 
innovation, that fashion came from Scotland with the 
Stuarts. . . . 

Afterwards, prying for epitaphs, we found a marble 
crusader with a broken nose, under a battered canopy 
of fretted stone, outside the restricted limits of the 
present Duffield church, and half-buried in nettles. 
" Ichabod, 11 said my uncle. " Eh ? We shall be like 
that, Susan, some day. . . . I'm going to clean him up 
a bit and put a railing to keep off the children. 11 

" Old saved at the eleventh hour, 11 said my aunt, 
quoting one of the less successful advertisements of 


Rut I don't think my uncle heard her. 

It was by our captured crusader that the vicar found 
us. He came round the corner at us briskly, a little 
out of breath. He had an air of having been running 
after us since the first toot of our horn had warned the 
village of our presence. He was an Oxford man, clean- 
shaven, with a cadaverous complexion and a guardedly 
respectful manner, a cultivated intonation, and a general 
air of accommodation to the new order of things. These 
Oxford men are the Greeks of our plutocratic empire. 
He was a Tory in spirit, and what one may call an 
adapted Tory by stress of circumstances, that is to say 
he was no longer a legitimist, he was prepared for the 
substitution of new lords for old. We were pill vendors, 
he knew, and no doubt horribly vulgar in soul; but 
then it might have been some polygamous Indian rajah, 
a great strain on a good man's tact, or some Jew with 
an inherited expression of contempt. Anyhow, we were 
English and neither Dissenters nor Socialists, and he 
was cheerfully prepared to do what he could to make 
gentlemen of both of us. He might have preferred 
Americans for some reasons ; they are not so obviously 
taken from one part of the social system and dumped 
down in another, and they are more teachable ; but in 
this world we cannot always be choosers. So he was 
very bright and pleasant with us, showed us the church, 
gossiped informingly about our neighbours on the 
countryside, Tux the banker, Lord Boom the magazine 
and newspaper proprietor, Lord Carnaby, that great 
sportsman, and old Lady Osprey. And finally he took 
us by way of a village lane — three children bobbed con- 
vulsively with eyes of terror for my uncle — through a 
meticulous garden to a big, slovenly Vicarage with faded 
Victorian furniture and a faded Victorian wife, who 


gave us tea and introduced us to a confusing family 
dispersed among a lot of disintegrating basket chairs 
upon the edge of a well-used tennis lawn. 

These people interested me. They were a common 
type, no doubt, but they were new to me. There were 
two lank sons who had been playing singles at tennis, 
red-eared youths growing black moustaches, and dressed 
in conscientiously untidy tweeds and unbuttoned and 
ungirt Norfolk jackets. There were a number of ill- 
nourished looking daughters, sensible and economical 
in their costume, the younger still with long, brown- 
stockinged legs, and the eldest present — there were we 
discovered one or two hidden away — displaying a large 
gold cross and other aggressive ecclesiastical symbols ; 
there were two or three fox-terriers, a retrieverish 
mongrel, and an old, bloody-eyed and very evil-smelling 
St. Bernard. There was a jackdaw. There was, more- 
over, an ambiguous silent lady that my aunt subsequently 
decided must be a very deaf paying guest. Two or 
three other people had concealed themselves at our 
coming and left unfinished teas behind them. Rugs 
and cushions lay among the chairs, and two of the 
latter were, I noted, covered with Union Jacks. 

The vicar introduced us sketchily, and the faded 
Victorian wife regarded my aunt with a mixture of 
conventional scorn and abject respect, and talked to 
her in a languid persistent voice about people in the 
neighbourhood whom my aunt could not possibly know. 
My aunt received these personalia cheerfully, with her 
blue eyes flitting from point to point, and coming 
back again and again to the pinched faces of the 
daughters and the cross upon the eldest's breast. En- 
couraged by my aunt's manner the vicar's wife grew 
patronizing and kindly, and made it evident that she 


could do much to bridge the social gulf between our- 
selves and the people of family about us. 

I had just snatches of that conversation. "Mrs. 
Merridew brought him quite a lot of money. Her 
father, I believe, had been in the Spanish wine trade — 
quite a lady, though. And after that he fell off his 
horse and cracked his brain pan and took to fishing 
and farming. I'm sure you'll like to know them. He's 
most amusing. . . . The daughter had a disappoint- 
ment and went to China as a missionary and got mixed 
up in a massacre.'" . . . 

"The most beautiful silks and things she brought 
back, you'd hardly believe ! " . . . 

" Yes, they gave them to propitiate her. You see 
they didn't understand the difference, and they thought 
that as they'd been massacring people, they'd be 
massacred. They didn't understand the difference 
Christianity makes." . . . 

" Seven bishops they've had in the family ! " . . . 

" Married a Papist and was quite lost to them." . . . 

" He failed some dreadful examination and had to 
go into the militia." . . . 

"So she bit his leg as hard as ever she could and 
he let go." . . . 

" Had four of his ribs amputated." . . . 

" Caught meningitis and was carried off in a week." 

" Had to have a large piece of silver tube let into 
his throat, and if he wants to talk he puts his finger 
on it. It makes him so interesting, I think. You feel 
he's sincere somehow. A most charming man in every 

" Preserved them both in spirits very luckily, and 
there they are in his study, though of course he doesn't 
show them to everybody." 


The silent lady, unperturbed by these apparently 
exciting topics, scrutinized my aunt's costume with a 
singular intensity, and was visibly moved when she 
unbuttoned her dust cloak and flung it wide. Mean- 
while, we men conversed, one of the more spirited 
daughters listened brightly, and the youths lay on the 
grass at our feet. My uncle offered them cigars, but 
they both declined, — out of bashfulness it seemed to 
me, whereas the vicar, I think, accepted out of tact. 
When we were not looking at them directly, these 
young men would kick each other furtively. 

Under the influence of my uncle's cigar, the vicar's 
mind had soared beyond the limits of the district. 
" This Socialism, 1 '' he said, " seems making great 
headway. 11 

My uncle shook his head. " We're too individualistic 
in this country for that sort of nonsense, 11 he said. 
" Everybody's business is nobody's business. That's 
where they go wrong. 11 

" They have some intelligent people in their ranks, 
I am told, 11 said the vicar, " writers and so forth. Quite 
a distinguished playwright, my eldest daughter was 
telling me — I forget his name. Milly dear ! Oh ! 
she's not here. Painters too, they have. This Social- 
ism it seems to me is part of the Unrest of the Age. . . . 
But, as you say, the spirit of the people is against it. 
In the country at any rate. The people down here 
are too sturdily independent in their small way, — and 
too sensible altogether. 11 . . . 

" It's a great thing for Duffield to have Lady Grove 
occupied again, 11 he was saying when my wandering 
attention came back from some attractive casualty in 
his wife's discourse. " People have always looked up 
to the house — and considering all things, old Mr. 


Durgan really was extraordinarily good — extraordinarily 
good. You intend to give us a good deal of your 
time here I hope. 11 

" I mean to do my duty by the Parish, 11 said my 

" I'm sincerely glad to hear it — sincerely. We've 
missed— the house influence. An English village isn't 

complete . People get out of hand. Life grows 

dull. The young people drift away to London. 11 

He enjoyed his cigar gingerly for a moment. 

" We shall look to you to liven things up, 11 he 
said, — poor man ! 

My uncle cocked his cigar and removed it from his 

" Whad you think the place wants ? 11 he asked. 

He did not wait for an answer. " I been thinking 
while you been talking — things one might do. Cricket 
— a good English game — sports. Build the chaps a 
pavilion perhaps. Then every village ought to have 
a miniature rifle ranee." 

"Ye-ees," said the vicar. "Provided, of course, 
there isn't a constant popping. 11 . . . 

" Manage that all right, 11 said my uncle. " Thing'd 
be a sort of long shed. Paint it red. British colour. 
Then there's a Union Jack for the church and the 
village school. Paint the school red too, p'raps. Not 
enough colour about now. Too grey. Then a may- 
pole. 11 

" How far our people would take up that sort of 
thing " began the vicar. 

"I'm all for getting that good old English spirit 
back again," said my uncle. "Merrymakings. Lads 
and lasses dancing on the village green. Harvest home. 
Fairings. Yule Log — all the rest of it." 


" How would old Sally Glue do for a May Queen ? " 
asked one of the sons in the slight pause that followed. 

" Or Anuie Glassbound ? " said the other, with the 
huge virile guffaw of a young man whose voice has only 
recently broken. 

" Sally Glue is eighty-five," explained the vicar, 
"and Annie Glassbound is, well — a young lady of 
extremely generous proportions. And not quite right, 
you know. Not quite right — here." He tapped his 

" Generous proportions ! " said the eldest son, and 
the guffaws were renewed. 

" You see," said the vicar, " all the brisker girls go 
into service in or near London. The life of excitement 
attracts them. And no doubt the higher wages have 
something to do with it. And the liberty to wear 
finery. And generally — freedom from restraint. So 
that there might be a little difficulty perhaps to find 
a May Queen here just at present who was really young 
and, er — pretty. ... Of course I couldn't think of 
any of my girls — or anything of that sort." 

"We got to attract 'em back," said my uncle. 
" That's what I feel about it. We got to Buck-Up 
the country. The English country is a going concern 
still; just as the Established Church — if you'll excuse 
me saying it, is a going concern. Just as Oxford is — 
or Cambridge. Or any of those old, fine old things. 
Only it wants fresh capital, fresh idees, and fresh 
methods. Light railways, f'rinstance — scientific use 
of drainage. Wire fencing — machinery — all that." 

The vicar's face for one moment betrayed dismay. 
Perhaps he was thinking of his country walks amidst 
the hawthorns and honeysuckle. 

" There's great things," said my uncle, " to be done 


on MocTun lines with Village Jam and Pickles — boiled 
in the country." 

It was the reverberation of this last sentence in my 
mind, I think, that sharpened my sentimental sympathy 
as we went through the straggling village street and 
across the trim green on our way back to London. It 
seemed that afternoon the most tranquil and idyllic 
collection of creeper sheltered homes you can imagine ; 
thatch still lingered on a whitewashed cottage or two, 
pyracanthus, wallflowers, and daffodils abounded, and 
an unsystematic orchard or so was white with blossom 
above and gay with bulbs below. I noted a row of 
straw beehives, beehive shaped, beehives of the type 
long since condemned as inefficient by all progressive 
minds, and in the doctor's acre of grass a flock of two 
whole sheep was grazing, — no doubt he'd taken them 
on account. Two men and one old woman made 
gestures of abject vassalage, and my uncle replied with 
a lordly gesture of his great motoring glove. . . . 

"England's full of Bits like this,'" said my uncle, 
leaning over the front seat and looking back with great 
satisfaction. The black glare of his goggles rested for 
a time on the receding turrets of Lady Grove just 
peeping over the trees. 

"I shall have a flagstaff, I think," he considered. 
"Then one could show when one is in residence. The 
villagers will like to know. 11 . . . 

I reflected. " They will, 11 I said. " They're used 
to liking to know. 11 . . . 

My aunt had been unusually silent. Suddenly she 
spoke. " He says Snap, 11 she remarked ; " he buys that 
place. And a nice old job of Housekeeping he gives 
me ! He sails through the village swelling like an old 
Turkey. And who'll have to scoot the butler ? Me ! 


Who's got to forget all she ever knew and start again ? 
Me ! Who's got to trek from Chislehurst and be a 
great lady ? Me ! . . . You old Bother ! Just when 
I was settling down and beginning to feel at home." 

My uncle turned his goggles to her. " Ah ! this 
time it is home, Susan. . . . We got there." 

It seems to me now but a step from the buying of 
Lady Grove to the beginning of Crest Hill, from the 
days when the former was a stupendous achievement to 
the days when it was too small and dark and incon- 
venient altogether for a great financier's use. For me 
that was a period of increasing detachment from our 
business and the great world of London, I saw it more 
and more in broken glimpses, and sometimes I was 
working in my little pavilion above Lady Grove for a 
fortnight together ; even when I came up it was often 
solely for a meeting of the aeronautical society or for 
one of the learned societies or to consult literature or 
employ searchers or some such special business. For 
my uncle it was a period of stupendous inflation. Each 
time I met him I found him more confident, more com- 
prehensive, more consciously a factor in great affairs. 
Soon he was no longer an associate of merely business 
men, he was big enough for the attentions of greater 

I grew used to discovering some item of personal 
news about him in my evening paper or to the sight of 
a full-page portrait of him in a sixpenny magazine. 
Usually the news was of some munificent act, some 
romantic piece of buying or giving, or some fresh 
rumour of reconstruction. He saved, vou will 


remember, the Parbury Reynolds for the country. Or 
at times it would be an interview or my uncle's con- 
tribution to some symposium on the " Secret of 
Success," or such-like topic. Or wonderful tales of 
his power of work, of his wonderful organization to get 
things done, of his instant decisions and remarkable 
power of judging his fellow-men. They repeated his 
great mot : " Eight-hour working-day — I want eighty 
hours ! " 

He became modestly but resolutely " public. 1 ' They 
cartooned him in Vanity Fair. One year my aunt, 
looking indeed a very gracious, slender lady, faced the 
portrait of the King in the great room at Burlington 
House, and the next year saw a medallion of my uncle 
by Ewart, looking out upon the world, proud and 
imperial, but on the whole a triHe too prominently 
convex, from the walls of the New Gallery. 

I shared only intermittently in his social experiences. 
People knew of me, it is true, and many of them sought 
to make through me a sort of flank attack upon him, 
and there was a legend, owing, very unreasonably, 
partly to my growing scientific reputation and partly 
to an element of reserve in my manner, that I played 
a much larger share in planning his operations than 
was actually the case. This led to one or two very 
intimate private dinners, to my inclusion in one or two 
house parties and various odd offers of introductions 
and services that I didn't for the most part accept. 
Among other people who sought me in this way was 
Archie Garvell, now a smart, impecunious soldier of no 
particular distinction, who would, I think, have been 
quite prepared to develop any sporting instincts I 
possessed, and who was beautifully unaware of our 
former contact. He was always offering me winners ; 


no doubt in a spirit of anticipatory exchange for some 
really good thing in our more scientific and certain 
method of getting something for nothing. . . . 

In spite of my preoccupation with my experimental 
work, I did, I find now that I come to ransack my 
impressions, see a great deal of the great world during 
those eventful years ; I had a near view of the machinery 
by which our astounding Empire is run, rubbed shoulders 
and exchanged experiences with bishops and statesmen, 
political women and women who were not political, 
physicians and soldiers, artists and authors, the directors 
of great journals, philanthropists and all sort of emi- 
nent, significant people. I saw the statesmen without 
their orders and the bishops with but a little purple 
silk left over from their canonicals, inhaling, not incense 
but cigar smoke. I could look at them all the better 
because for the most part they were not looking at me 
but at my uncle, and calculating consciously or uncon- 
sciously how they might use him and assimilate him to 
their system, the most unpremeditated, subtle, successful 
and aimless plutocracy that ever encumbered the des- 
tinies of mankind. Not one of them, so far as I could 
see, until disaster overtook him, resented his lies, his 
almost naked dishonesty of method, the disorderly dis- 
turbance of this trade and that, caused by his spasmodic 
operations. I can see them now about him, see them 
polite, watchful, various ; his stiff compact little figure 
always a centre of attention, his wiry hair, his brief nose, 
his under-lip, electric with self-confidence. Wandering 
marginally through distinguished gatherings, I would 
catch the whispers : " Thafs Mr. Ponderevo ! " 

"The little man?" 

" Yes, the little bounder with the glasses.'" 

" They say he's made " . . . 


Or I would see him on some parterre of a platform 
beside my aunt's hurraying hat, amidst titles and 
costumes, " holding his end up," as he would say, 
subscribing heavily to obvious charities, even at times 
making brief convulsive speeches in some good cause 
before the most exalted audiences. " Mr. Chairman, 
your Royal Highness, my Lords, Ladies and Gentle- 
men, 11 he would begin amidst subsiding applause and 
adjust those obstinate glasses and thrust back the 
wings of his frock-coat and rest his hands upon his hips 
and speak his fragment with ever and again an inci- 
dental Zzzz. His hands would fret about him as he 
spoke, fiddle his glasses, feel in his waistcoat pockets ; 
ever and again he would rise slowly to his toes as a 
sentence unwound jerkily like a clockwork snake, and 
drop back on his heels at the end. They were the very 
gestures of our first encounter when he had stood 
before the empty fireplace in his minute draped parlour 
and talked of my future to my mother. 

In those measurelessly long hot afternoons in the 
little shop at Wimblehurst he had talked and dreamt 
of the Romance of Modern Commerce. Here surely 
was his romance come true. 


People say that my uncle lost his head at the crest 
of his fortunes, but if one may tell so much truth of a 
man one has in a manner loved, he never had very 
much head to lose. He was always imaginative, erratic, 
inconsistent, recklessly inexact, and his inundation of 
wealth merely gave him scope for these qualities. It 
is true indeed that towards the climax he became 


intensely irritable at times and impatient of contradic- 
tion, but that I think was rather the gnawing uneasiness 
of sanity than any mental disturbance. But I find it 
hard either to judge him or convey the full develop- 
ment of him to the reader. I saw too much of him ; 
my memory is choked with disarranged moods and 
aspects. Now he is distended with megalomania, now 
he is deflated, now he is quarrelsome, now impenetrably 
self-satisfied, but always he is sudden, jerky, fragmen- 
tary, energetic, and — in some subtle fundamental way 
that I find difficult to define — absurd. 

There stands out — because of the tranquil beauty 
of its setting perhaps — a talk we had in the verandah 
of the little pavilion near my work-sheds behind Crest 
Hill in which my aeroplanes and navigable balloons 
were housed. It was one of many similar conversations, 
and I do not know why it in particular should survive 
its fellows. It happens so. He had come up to me 
after his coffee to consult me about a certain chalice 
which in a moment of splendour and under the impor- 
tunity of a countess he had determined to give to a 
deserving church in the East-end. I in a moment of 
even rasher generosity had suggested Ewart as a possible 
artist. Ewart had produced at once an admirable 
sketch for the sacred vessel surrounded by a sort of 
wreath of Millies with open arms and wings, and had 
drawn fifty pounds on the strength of it. After that 
came a series of vexatious delays. The chalice became 
less and less of a commercial- man's chalice, acquired 
more and more the elusive quality of the Holy Grail, 
and at last even the drawing receded. 

My uncle grew restive. . . . "You see, George, 
they'll begin to want the blasted thing ! " 

" What blasted thing ? " 


" That chalice, damn it ! They're beginning to ask 
questions. It isn't Business, George. 11 

" It's art, 11 I protested, " and religion. 11 

" That's all very well. But it's not a good ad 1 for 
us, George, to make a promise and not deliver the 
goods. . . . HI have to write off your friend Ewart as 
a bad debt, that's what it comes to, and go to a decent 
firm." ... 

We sat outside on deck chairs in the verandah of the 
pavilion, smoked, drank whiskey, and the chalice dis- 
posed of, meditated. His temporary annoyance passed. 
It was an altogether splendid summer night, following 
a blazing, indolent day. Full moonlight brought out 
dimly the lines of the receding hills, one wave beyond 
another ; far beyond were the pin-point lights of 
Leatherhead, and in the foreground the little stage 
from which I used to start upon my gliders gleamed 
like wet steel. The season must have been high June, 
for down in the woods that hid the lights of the Lady 
Grove windows, I remember the nightingales thrilled 
and gurgled. . . . 

" We got here, George, 11 said my uncle ending a 
long pause. " Didn 1 t I say ? " 

" Say ! — when ? 11 I asked. 

" In that hole in the To'nem Court Road, eh ? It's 
been a Straight Square fight, and here we are ! " 

I nodded. 

"'Member me telling you — Tono-Bungay? . . . 
Well. . . . Fd just that afternoon thought of it ! " 

" Tve fancied at times " I admitted. 

" It's a great world, George, nowadays, with a fair 
chance for every one who lays hold of things. The 
career ouvert to the Talons — eh ? Tono-Bungay. 
Think of it ! It's a great world and a growing world, 


and Fm glad we're in it — and getting a pull. We're 
getting big people, George. Things come to us. Eh ? 
This Palestine thing. 1 ' . . . 

He meditated for a time and Zzzzed softly. Then 
he became still. 

His theme was taken up by a cricket in the grass 
until he himself was ready to resume it. The cricket too 
seemed to fancy that in some scheme of its own it had 
got there. " ChihTnTup,'' it said ; " chiiTrrrrup." . . . 

" Lord what a place that was at Wimblehurst ! " he 
broke out. " If ever I get a day off we'll motor there, 
George, and run over that dog that sleeps in the High 
Street. Always was a dog asleep there — always. 
Always. ... I'd like to see the old shop again. I 
daresay old Ruck still stands between the sheep at his 
door, grinning with all his teeth, and Marbel, silly 
beggar ! comes out with his white apron on and a 
pencil stuck behind his ear, trying to look awake. . . . 
Wonder if thev know it's me ? I'd like 'em somehow to 
know it's me." 

" They'll have had the International Tea Company 
and all sorts of people cutting them up," I said. " And 
that dog's been on the pavement this six years — can't 
sleep even there, poor dear, because of the motor-horns 
and its shattered nerves." 

" Movin' everywhere," said my uncle. " I expect 
you're right. . . . It's a big time we're in, George. 
It's a big Progressive On-coming Imperial Time. This 
Palestine business — the daring of it. . . . It's — it's a 
Process, George. And we got our hands on it. Here 
we sit — with our hands on it, George. Entrusted. 

" It seems quiet to-night. But if we could see and 
hear." He waved his cigar towards Leatherhead and 


"There they are, millions, George. Jes' think of 
what they've been up to to-day — those ten millions — 
each one doing his own particular job. You can't 
grasp it. It's like old Whitman says — what is it he 
says? Well, anyway it's like old Whitman. Fine 
chap, Whitman ! Fine old chap ! Queer, you can't 
quote him ! . . . And these millions aren't anything. 
There's the millions over seas, hundreds of millions, 
Chinee, M'rocco, Africa generally, 'Merica. . . . Well, 
here we are, with power, with leisure, picked out — 
because we've been energetic, because we've seized oppor- 
tunities, because we've made things hum when other 
people have waited for them to hum. See ? Here we 
are — with our hands on it. Big people. Big growing 
people. In a sort of way, — Forces." 

He paused. " It's wonderful, George," he said. 

" Anglo-Saxon energy," I said softly to the night. 

" That's it, George — energy. It's put things in our 
grip — threads, wires, stretching out and out, George, 
from that little office of ours, out to West Africa, out 
to Egypt, out to Inja, out east, west, north and south. 
Running the world practically. Running it faster and 
faster. Creative. There's that Palestine canal affair. 
Marvellous idee ! Suppose we take that up, suppose we 
let ourselves in for it, us and the others, and run that 
water sluice from the Mediterranean into the Dead Sea 
Valley — think of the difference it will make ! All the 
desert blooming like a rose, Jericho lost for ever, all the 
Holy Places under water. . . , Very likely destroy 
Christianity." . . . 

He mused for a space. " Cuttin' canals," murmured 
my uncle. " Making tunnels. . . . New countries. . . . 
New centres. . . . Zzzz. . . . Finance. ... Not only 


" I wonder where we shall get before we done, 
George ? We got a lot of big things going. We got 
the investing public sound and sure. I don't see why in 
the end we shouldn't be very big. There's difficulties — 
but I'm equal to them. We're still a bit soft in our 
bones, but they'll harden all right. ... I suppose, 
after all, I'm worth something like a million, George — 
cleared up and settled. If I got out of things now. 
It's a great time, George, a wonderful time ! " . . . 

I glanced through the twilight at his convexity — 
and I must confess it struck me that on the whole he 
wasn't particularly good value. 

"We got our hands on things, George — us big 
people. We got to hang together, George — run the 
show. Join up with the old order like that mill-wheel 
of Kipling's. (Finest thing he ever wrote, George ; — I 
jes 1 been reading it again. Made me buy Lady Grove.) 
Well, we got to run the country, George. It's ours. 
Make it a Scientific— Organized — Business — Enterprise. 
Put idees into it. 'Lectrify it. Run the Press. Run 
all sorts of developments. All sorts of developments. I 
been talking to Lord Boom. I been talking to all 
sorts of people. Great things. Progress. The world 
on business lines. Only jes' beginning." . . . 

He fell into a deep meditation. 

He Zzzzed for a time and ceased. 

" Yes,™ he said at last in the tone of a man who 
has at last emerged with ultimate solutions to the 
profoundest problems. 

" What ? " I said after a seemly pause. 

My uncle hung fire for a moment, and it seemed to 
me the fate of nations trembled in the balance. Then 
he spoke as one who speaks from the very bottom of his 
heart — and I think it was the very bottom of his heart. 


"Fd jes' like to drop into the Eastry Arms, jes' 
when all those beggars in the parlour are sittin' down 
to whist, Ruck and Marbel and all, and give 'em ten 
minutes of my mind, George. Straight from the 
shoulder. Jes 1 exactly what I think of them. It's 
a little thing, but I'd like to do it — jes 1 once before 
I die." . . . 

He rested on that for some time — Zzzz-ing. 

Then he broke out at a new place in a tone of 
detached criticism. 

"There's Boom, 11 he reflected. 

" It's a wonderful system — this old British system, 
George. Ifs staid and stable, and yet it has a place 
for new men. We come up and take our places. It's 
almost expected. We take a hand. That's where 
our Democracy differs from America. Over there a 
man succeeds ; all he gets is money. Here there's a 
system— open to every one — practically. . . . Chaps like 
Boom — come from nowhere. 11 

His voice ceased. I reflected upon the spirit of his 
words. Suddenly I kicked my feet in the air, rolled 
on my side and sat up suddenly on my deck chair with 
my legs down. 

" You don't mean it ! " I said. 

" Mean what, George ? " 

"Subscription to the party funds. Reciprocal 
advantage. Have we got to that ? " 

" Whad you driving at, George ? " 

" You know. They'd never do it, man ! n t 

" Do what ?" he said feebly ; and, " Why shouldn't 
they? 11 

" They'd not even go to a baronetcy. No ! . . . 
And yet, of course, there's Boom ! And Collingshead 
— and Gorver. They've done beer, they've done 


snippets ! After all Tono-Bungay — it's not like a turf 
commission agent or anything like that ! . . . There 
have of course been some very gentlemanly commission 
agents. It isn't like a fool of a scientific man who 
can't make money ! " 

My uncle grunted ; we'd differed on that issue 

A malignant humour took possession of me. " What 
would they call you ? " I speculated. " The vicar would 
like Duffield. Too much like Duffer ! Difficult thing, 
a title. 11 I ran my mind over various possibilities. 
*' Why not take a leaf from a socialist tract I came 
upon yesterday. Chap says we're all getting de- 
localized. Beautiful word — delocalized ! Why not be 
the first delocalized peer? That gives you — Tono- 
Bungay ! There is a Bungay, you know. Lord Tono 
of Bungay — in bottles everywhere. Eh ? 11 

My uncle astonished me by losing his temper. 

"Damn it, George, you don't seem to see I'm 
serious ! You're always sneering at Tono-Bungay ! 
As though it w r as some sort of swindle. It was per- 
fec'ly legitimate trade, perfec'ly legitimate. Good value 
and a good article. . . . When I come up here and tell 
you plans and exchange idees — you sneer at me. You 
do. You don't see — it's a big thing. It's a big thing. 
You got to get used to new circumstances. You got 
to face what lies before us. You got to drop that 
tone. 11 . . . 


My uncle was not altogether swallowed up in 
business and ambition. He kept in touch with modern 
thought. For example, he was, I know, greatly swayed 


by what he called "This Overman idee, Nietzsche — 
all that stuff. 11 

He mingled those comforting suggestions of a 
potent and exceptional human being emancipated from 
the pettier limitations of integrity with the Napoleonic 
legend. It gave his imagination a considerable outlet. 
That Napoleonic legend ! The real mischief of Na- 
poleon's immensely disastrous and accidental career 
began only when he was dead and the romantic type 
of mind was free to elaborate his character. I do 
believe that my uncle would have made a far less 
egregious smash if there had been no Napoleonic legend 
to misguide him. He was in many ways better and 
infinitely kinder than his career. But when in doubt 
between decent conduct and a base advantage, that 
cult came in more and more influentially ; " think of 
Napoleon ; think what the inflexibly-wilful Napoleon 
would have done with such scruples as yours; 11 that 
was the rule, and the end was invariably a new step in 

My uncle was in an unsystematic way a collector of 
Napoleonic relics ; the bigger the book about his hero, 
the more readily he bought it ; he purchased letters 
and tinsel and weapons that bore however remotely 
upon the Man of Destiny, and he even secured in Geneva, 
though he never brought home an old coach in which 
Buonaparte might have ridden ; he crowded the quiet 
walls of Lady Grove with engravings and figures of 
him, preferring, my aunt remarked, the more convex 
portraits with the white vest and those statuettes 
with the hands behind the back which throw forward 
the figure. The Durgans watched him through it all, 

And he would stand after breakfast at times in the 


light of the window at Lady Grove, a little apart, with 
two fingers of one hand stuck between his waistcoat- 
buttons and his chin sunken, thinking, — the most pre- 
posterous little fat man in the world. It made my 
aunt feel, she said, " like an old Field Marshal — knocks 
me into a cocked hat, George ! " 

Perhaps this Napoleonic bias made him a little less 
frequent with his cigars than he would otherwise have 
been, but of that I cannot be sure, and it certainly 
caused my aunt a considerable amount of vexation 
after he had read Napoleon and the Fair Sex, because 
for a time that roused him to a sense of a side of life 
he had in his commercial preoccupations very largely 
forgotten. Suggestion plays so great a part in this 
field. My uncle took the next opportunity and had 
an « affair ! " 

It was not a very impassioned affair, and the exact 
particulars never of course reached me. It is quite by 
chance I know anything of it at all. One evening I 
was surprised to come upon my uncle in a mixture of 
Bohemia and smart people at an At Home in the flat 
of Robbert, the R.x\. who painted my aunt, and he 
was standing a little apart in a recess, talking or rather 
being talked to in undertones by a plump, blond little 
woman in pale blue, a Helen Scrymgeour who wrote 
novels and was organizing a weekly magazine. I 
elbowed a large lady who was saying something about 
them, but I didn't need to hear the thing she said to 
perceive the relationship of the two. It hit me like a 
placard on a hoarding. I was amazed the whole 
gathering did not see it. Perhaps they did. She was 
wearing a remarkably fine diamond necklace, much too 
fine for journalism, and regarding him with that quality 
of questionable proprietorship, of leashed but straining 


intimacy, that seems inseparable from this sort of affair. 
It is so much more palpable than matrimony. If 
anything was wanted to complete my conviction it 
was my uncle's eyes when presently he became aware of 
mine, a certain embarrassment and a certain pride and 
defiance. And the next day he made an opportunity 
to praise the lady's intelligence to me concisely, lest 
I should miss the point of it all. 

After that I heard some gossip — from a friend of 
the lady's. I was much too curious to do anything but 
listen. I had never in all my life imagined my uncle 
in an amorous attitude. It would appear that she 
called him her "God in the Car" — after the hero in 
a novel of Anthony Hope's. It was essential to the 
convention of their relations that he should go relent- 
lessly whenever business called, and it was generally 
arranged that it did call. To him women were an 
incident, it was understood between them ; Ambition 
was the master-passion. A great world called him and 
the noble hunger for Power. I have never been able 
to discover just how honest Mrs. Scrymgeour was in 
all this, but it is quite possible the immense glamour 
of his financial largeness prevailed with her and that 
she did bring a really romantic feeling to their en- 
counters. There must have been some extraordinary 
moments. . . . 

I was a good deal exercised and distressed about my 
aunt when I realized what was afoot. I thought it 
would prove a terrible humiliation to her. I suspected 
her of keeping up a brave front with the loss of my 
uncle's affections fretting at her heart, but there I 
simply underestimated her. She didn't hear for some 
time, and when she did hear she was extremely angry 
and energetic. The sentimental situation didn't trouble 


her for a moment. She decided that my uncle " wanted 
smacking."" She accentuated herself with an unexpected 
new hat, went and gave him an inconceivable talking-to 
at the Hardingham, and then came round to " blow-up " 
me for not telling her what was going on before. . . . 

I tried to bring her to a proper sense of the accepted 
values in this affair, but my aunt's originality of out- 
look was never so invincible. " Men don't tell on one 
another in affairs of passion, 1 ' I protested and suchlike 
worldly excuses. 

"Women!" she said in high indignation, "and 
men ! It isn't women and men — it's him and me, 
George ! Why don't you talk sense ? 

" Old passion's all very well, George, in its way, 
and I'm the last person to be jealous. But this is 
old nonsense. . . . I'm not going to let him show off 
what a silly old lobster he is to other women. . . . I'll 
mark every scrap of his underclothes with red letters, 
" Ponderevo — Private " — every scrap. . . . 

" Going about making love indeed ! — in abdominal 
belts ! — at his time of life ! " . . . . 

I cannot imagine what passed between her and my 
uncle. But I have no doubt that for once her custom- 
ary badinage was laid aside. How they talked then I 
do not know, for I who knew them so well had never 
heard that much of intimacy between them. At any 
rate it was a concerned and preoccupied " God in the 
Car " I had to deal with in the next few days, unusually 
Zzzz-y and given to slight impatient gestures that had 
nothing to do with the current conversation. And it 
was evident that in all directions he was finding things 
unusually difficult to explain. 

All the intimate moments in this affair were hidden 
from me, but in the end my aunt triumphed. He did 


not so much throw as jerk over Mrs. Scrymgeour, and 
she did not so much make a novel of it as upset a huge 
pailful of attenuated and adulterated female soul upon 
this occasion. My aunt did not appear in that, even 
remotely. So that it is doubtful if the lady knew the 
real causes of her abandonment. The Napoleonic hero 
was practically unmarried, and he threw over his lady as 
Napoleon threw over Josephine, for a great alliance. . . . 
It was a triumph for my aunt, but it had its price. 
For some time it was evident things were strained 
between them. He gave up the lady, but he resented 
having to do so, deeply. She had meant more to his 
imagination than one could have supposed. He wouldn't 
for a long time " come round. 11 He became touchy 
and impatient and secretive towards my aunt, and she, 
I noted, after an amazing check or so, stopped that 
stream of kindly abuse that had flowed for so long and 
had been so great a refreshment in their lives. They 
were both the poorer for its cessation, both less happy. 
She devoted herself more and more to Lady Grove and 
the humours and complications of its management. 
The servants took to her — as they say — she god- 
mothered three Susans during her rule, the coachman's, 
the gardeners, and the Up Hill game-keeper's. She 
got together a library of old household books that were 
in the vein of the place. She revived the still-room, 
and became a great artist in jellies and elder and cow- 
slip wine. 


And while I neglected the development of my uncle's 
finances — and my own, in my scientific work and my 
absorbing conflict with the difficulties of flying, — his 


schemes grew more and more expansive and hazardous, 
and his spending wilder and laser. I believe that a 
haunting sense of the intensifying unsoundness of his 
position accounts largely for his increasing irritability 
and his increasing secretiveness with my aunt and my- 
self during these crowning years. He dreaded I think, 
having to explain, he feared our jests might pierce 
unwittingly to the truth. Even in the privacy of his 
mind he would not face the truth. He was accumu- 
lating: unrealizable securities in his safes until thev 
hung a potential avalanche over the economic world. 
But his buying became a fever, and his restless desire 
to keep it up with himself that he was making a 
triumphant progress to limitless wealth gnawed deeper 
and deeper. A curious feature of this time with him 
was his buying over and over again of similar things. 
His ideas seemed to run in series. Within a twelve- 
month he bought five new motor-cars, each more swift 
and powerful than its predecessor, and only the repeated 
prompt resignation of his chief chauffeur at each moment 
of danger, prevented his driving them himself. He 
used them more and more. He developed a passion 
for locomotion for its own sake. 

Then he began to chafe at Lady Grove, fretted by 
a chance jest he had overheard at a dinner. " This 
house, George," he said. " It's a misfit. There's no 
elbow-room in it ; it's choked with old memories. . . . 
And I can't stand all these damned Durgans ! 

" That chap in the corner, George. No ! the other 
corner ! The man in a cherry -colour coat. He watches 
you ! He'd look silly if I stuck a poker through his 
Gizzard ! " 

" He'd look," I reflected, " much as he does now. 
As though he was amused." 


He replaced his glasses which had fallen at his 
emotion, and glared at his antagonists. " What are 
they ? What are they all, the lot of 'em ? Dead as 
Mutton ! They just stuck in the mud. They didn't 
even rise to the Reformation. The old out-of-date 
Reformation ! Move with the times ! — they moved 
against the times. Just a Family of Failure; — they 
never even tried ! . . . . 

" They're jes\ George, exactly what I'm not. 
Exactly. It isn't suitable . . . All this living in the 

"And I want a bigger place too, George. I want 
air and sunlight and room to move about and more 
service. A house where you can get a Move on things ! 
Zzzz. Why! it's like a discord — it jars — even to have 
the telephone. . . . There's nothing, nothing except 
the terrace, that's worth a Rap. It's all dark and old 
and dried up and full of old-fashioned things — musty 
old idees — fitter for a silver-fish than a modern man. 
... I don't know how I got here." 

He broke out into a new grievance. " That damned 
vicar," he complained, " thinks I ought to think myself 
lucky to get this place ! Every time I meet him I can 
see him think it. . . . One of these days, George, Til 
show him what a Mod'un house is like ! " 

And he did. 

I remember the day when he declared, as Americans 
say, for Crest Hill. He had come up to see my new 
gas plant, for I was then only just beginning to experi- 
ment with auxiliary collapsible balloons, and all the 
time the shine of his glasses was wandering away to the 
open down beyond. "Let's go back to Lady Grove 
over the hill," he said. "Something I want to show 
you. Something fine ! " 



It was an empty sunlit place that summer evening, 
sky and earth warm with sundown, and a pewit or so 
just accentuating the pleasant stillness that ends a long 
clear day. A beautiful peace, it was, to wreck for ever. 
And there was my uncle, the modern man of power, in 
his grey top-hat and his grey suit and his black-ribboned 
glasses, short, thin-legged, large-stomached, pointing 
and gesticulating, threatening this calm. 

He began with a wave of his arm. "That's the 
place, George," he said. " See ? " 

" Eh !" I cried — for I had been thinking of remote 

" I got it." 

" Got what ? " 

" For a house ! — a Twentieth Century house ! That's 
the place for it ! " 

One of his characteristic phrases was begotten in 
him. " Four-square to the winds of heaven, George ! "" 
he said. " Eh ? Four-square to the winds of heaven ! " 

" You'll get the winds up here," I said. 

" A mammoth house it ought to be, George — to 
suit these hills."" 

" Quite," I said. 

" Great galleries and things — running out there and 
there — See ? I been thinking of it, George ! Looking 
out all this way — across the Weald. With its back to 
Lady Grove." 

" And the morning sun in its eye." 

" Like an eagle, George, — like an eagle ! " 

So he broached to me what speedily became the 
leading occupation of his culminating years, Crest Hill. 
But all the world has heard of that extravagant place 
which grew and changed its plans as it grew, and bubbled 
like a salted snail, and burgeoned and bulged and 


evermore grew. I know not what delirium of pinnacles 
and terraces and arcades and corridors glittered at last 
upon the uplands of his mind; the place, for all that 
its expansion was terminated abruptly by our collapse, 
is wonderful enough as it stands, — that empty instinctive 
building of a childless man. His chief architect was a 
young man named Westminster, whose work he had 
picked out in the architecture room of the Royal 
Academy on account of a certain grandiose courage in 
it, but with him he associated from time to time a 
number of fellow professionals, stonemasons, sanitary 
engineers, painters, sculptors, scribes, metal workers, 
wood carvers, furniture designers, ceramic specialists, 
landscape gardeners, and the man who designs the 
arrangement and ventilation of the various new houses 
in the London Zoological Gardens. In addition he had 
his own ideas. The thing occupied his mind at all 
times, but it held it completely from Friday night 
to Monday morning. He would come down to Lady 
Grove on Friday night in a crowded motor-car that 
almost dripped architects. He didn't, however, confine 
himself to architects, every one was liable to an invitation 
to week-end and view Crest Hill, and many an eager 
promoter, unaware of how Napoleonically and completely 
my uncle had departmentalized his mind, tried to creep 
up to him by way of tiles and ventilators and new 
electric fittings. Always on Sunday mornings, unless 
the weather was vile, he would, so soon as breakfast and 
his secretaries were disposed of, visit the site with a con- 
siderable retinue, and alter and develop plans, making 
modifications, Zzzz-ing, giving immense new orders 
verbally — an unsatisfactory way, as Westminster and 
the contractors ultimately found. 

There he stands in my memory, the symbol of this 


age for me, the man of luck and advertisement, the 
current master of the world. There he stands upon the 
great outward sweep of the terrace before the huge main 
entrance, a little figure, ridiculously disproportionate to 
that forty-foot arch, with the granite ball behind him — 
the astronomical ball, brass coopered, that represented 
the world, with a little adjustable tube of lenses on a 
gun-metal arm that focussed the sun upon just that 
point of the earth on which it chanced to be shining 
vertically. There he stands, Napoleonically grouped 
with his retinue, men in tweeds and golfing-suits, a little 
solicitor, whose name I forget, in grey trousers and a 
black jacket, and Westminster in Jaeger underclothing, 
a floriferous tie, and a peculiar brown cloth of his own. 
The downland breeze flutters my uncle's coat-tails, dis- 
arranges his stiff hair, and insists on the evidence of 
undisciplined appetites in face and form, as he points 
out this or that feature in the prospect to his attentive 

Below are hundreds of feet of wheeling-planks, 
ditches, excavations, heaps of earth, piles of garden 
stone from the Wealden ridges. On either hand the 
walls of his irrelevant unmeaning palace rise. At one 
time he had working in that place — disturbing the 
economic balance of the whole countryside by their 
presence — upwards of three thousand men. . . . 

So he poses for my picture amidst the raw beginnings 
that were never to be completed. He did the strangest 
things about that place, things more and more detached 
from any conception of financial scale, things more and 
more apart from sober humanity. He seemed to think 
himself at last, released from any such limitations. He 
moved a quite considerable hill, and nearly sixty mature 
trees were moved with it to open his prospect eastward, 


moved it about two hundred feet to the south. At 
another time he caught a suggestion from some city 
restaurant and made a billiard-room roofed with plate 
glass beneath the waters of his ornamental lake. He 
furnished one wing while its roof still awaited comple- 
tion. He had a swimming bath thirty feet square next 
to his bedroom upstairs, and to crown it all he com- 
menced a great wall to hold all his dominions together, 
free from the invasion of common men. It was a ten- 
foot wall, glass surmounted, and had it been completed 
as he intended it, it would have had a total length of 
nearly eleven miles. Some of it towards the last was so 
dishonestly built that it collapsed within a year upon 
its foundations, but some miies of it still stand. I 
never think of it now but what I think of the hundreds 
of eager little investors who followed his " star, 1 ' whose 
hopes and lives, whose wives 1 security and children's 
prospects are all mixed up beyond redemption with that 
flaking mortar. . . . 

It is curious how many of these modern financiers of 
chance and bluff have ended their careers by building. 
It was not merely my uncle. Sooner or later they all 
seem to bring their luck to the test of realization, 
try to make their fluid opulence coagulate out as 
bricks and mortar, bring moonshine into relations 
with a weekly wages-sheet. Then the whole fabric of 
confidence and imagination totters — and down they 
come. . . . 

When I think of that despoiled hillside, that colossal 
litter of bricks and mortar, and crude roads and paths, 
the scaffolding and sheds, the general quality of unfore- 
seeing outrage upon the peace of nature, I am reminded 
of a chat I had with the vicar one bleak day after he 
had witnessed a glide. He talked to me of aeronautics 


as I stood in jersey and shorts beside my machine, fresh 
from alighting, and his cadaverous face failed to con- 
ceal a peculiar desolation that possessed him. 

" Almost you convince me, 11 he said coming up to 
me, " against my will. ... A marvellous invention ! 
But it will take you a long time, sir, before you can 
emulate that perfect mechanism — the wing of a bird." 

He looked at my sheds. 

" You've changed the look of this valley, too," 
he said. 

" Temporary defilements, 11 I remarked, guessing 
what was in his mind. 

" Of course. Things come and go. Things come 

and go. But H'm. I've just been up over the hill 

to look at Mr. Edward Ponderevo's new house. That 
— that is something more permanent. A magnificent 
place \ — in many ways. Imposing. I've never somehow 
brought myself to go that way before. . . . Things are 
greatly advanced. . . . We find — the great number of 
strangers introduced into the villages about here by 
these operations, working-men chiefly, a little em- 
barrassing . It puts us out. They bring a new 

spirit into the place ; betting — ideas — all sorts of queer 
notions. Our publicans like it, of course. And they 
come and sleep in one's outhouses — and make the place 
a little unsafe at nights. The other morning I couldn't 
sleep — a slight dyspepsia — and I looked out of the 
window. I was amazed to see people going by on 
bicycles. A silent procession. I counted ninety-seven 
— in the dawn. All going up to the new road for 
Crest Hill. Remarkable I thought it. And so I've 
been up to see what they were doing." 

"They would have been more than remarkable 
thirty years ago," I said. 


" Yes, indeed. Things change. We think nothing 
of it now at all — comparatively. And that big 
house " 

He raised his eyebrows. " Really stupendous ! . . . 

" All the hillside— the old turf— cut to ribbons ! " 

His eye searched my face. " We've grown so accus- 
tomed to look up to Lady Grove, 11 he said, and smiled 
in search of sympathy. " It shifts our centre of 
gravity. 11 

"Things will readjust themselves, 11 I lied. 

He snatched at the phrase. " Of course, 11 he said. 
" They'll readjust themselves — settle down again. Must. 
In the old way. It's bound to come right again — a 
comforting thought. Yes. After all, Lady Grove 
itself had to be built once upon a time — was — to 
begin with — artificial." 

His eye returned to my aeroplane. He sought to 
dismiss his graver preoccupations. "I should think 
twice, 11 he remarked, " before I trusted myself to that 
concern. . . . But I suppose one grows accustomed to 
the motion. 11 

He bade me good morning and went his way, 
bowed and thoughtful. . . . 

He had kept the truth from his mind a long time, 
but that morning it had forced its way to him with 
an aspect that brooked no denial that this time it 
was not just changes that were coming in his world, 
but that all his world lay open and defenceless, con- 
quered and surrendered, doomed so far as he could see, 
root and branch, scale and form alike, to change. 



§ 1 

For nearly all the time that my uncle was incubating 
and hatching Crest Hill I was busy in a little trans- 
verse valley between that great beginning and Lady 
Grove with more and more costly and ambitious experi- 
ments in aerial navigation. This work was indeed the 
main substance of my life through all the great time of 
the Tono-Bungay symphony. 

I have told already how I came to devote myself to 
this system of enquiries, how in a sort of disgust with 
the common adventure of life I took up the dropped 
ends of my college studies, taking them up again with a 
man's resolution instead of a boy's ambition. From the 
first I did well at this work. It was I think largely 
a case of special aptitude, of a peculiar irrelevant vein 
of faculty running through my mind. It is one of those 
things men seem to have by chance, that has little or 
nothing to do with their general merit, and which it 
is ridiculous to be either conceited or modest about. 
I did get through a very big mass of work in those 
years, working for a time with a concentrated fierceness 
that left little of such energy or capacity as I possess 
unused. I worked out a series of problems connected 



with the stability of bodies pitching in the air and the 
internal movements of the wind, and I also revolu- 
tionized one leading part at least of the theory of 
explosive engines. These things are to be found in the 
Philosophical Transactions, the Mathematical Journal, 
and less frequently in one or two other such publi- 
cations, and they needn't detain us here. Indeed, I 
doubt if I could write about them here. One acquires 
a sort of shorthand for one^ notes and mind in relation 
to such special work. I have never taught nor lectured, 
that is to say I have never had to express my thoughts 
about mechanical things in ordinary everyday language, 
and I doubt very much if I could do so now without 
extreme tedium. . . . 

My work was to begin with very largely theoretical. 
I was able to attack such early necessities of verifica- 
tion as arose with quite little models, using a turn- 
table to get the motion through the air, and cane, 
whalebone and silk as building material. But a time 
came when incalculable factors crept in, factors of 
human capacity and factors of insufficient experi- 
mental knowledge, when one must needs guess and 
try. Then I had to enlarge the scale of my opera- 
tions and soon I had enlarged them very greatly. 
I set to work almost concurrently on the balance 
and stability of gliders and upon the steering 
of inflated bags, the latter a particularly expensive 
branch of work. I was no doubt moved by something 
of the same spirit of lavish expenditure that was 
running away with my uncle in these developments. 
Presently my establishment above Lady Grove had 
grown to a painted wood cMlet big enough to accom- 
modate six men, and in which I would sometimes live for 
three weeks together ; to a gasometer, to a motor-house, 


to three big corrugated-roofed sheds and lock-up 
houses, to a stage from which to start gliders, to a 
■workshop and so forth. A rough road was made. We 
brought up gas from Cheaping and electricity from 
Woking, which place I found also afforded a friendly 
workshop for larger operations than I could manage. 
I had the luck also to find a man who seemed my 
heaven-sent second-in-command — Cothope his name 
was. He was a self-educated man ; he had formerly 
been a sapper and he was one of the best and handiest 
working engineers alive. Without him I do not think 
I could have achieved half what I have done. At times 
he has been not so much my assistant as my collabo- 
rator, and has followed my fortunes to this day. Other 
men came and went as I needed them. 

I do not know how far it is possible to convey to 
any one who has not experienced it, the peculiar 
interest, the peculiar satisfaction that lies in a sustained 
research when one is not hampered by want of money. 
It is a different thing from any other sort of human 
effort. You are free from the exasperating conflict 
with your fellow-creatures altogether — at least so far as 
the essential work goes — that for me is its peculiar 
merit. Scientific truth is the remotest of mistresses, 
she hides in strange places, she is attained by tortuous 
and laborious roads, but she is always there ! Win to 
her and she will not fail you ; she is yours and mankind's 
for ever. She is reality, the one reality I have found 
in this strange disorder of existence. She will not sulk 
with you nor misunderstand you nor cheat you of your 
reward upon some petty doubt. You cannot change 
her by advertisement or clamour, nor stifle her in 
vulgarities. Things grow under your hands when you 
serve her, things that are permanent as nothing else is 


permanent in the whole life of man. That I think is 
the peculiar satisfaction of science and its enduring- 
reward. . . . 

The taking up of experimental work produced a 
great change in my personal habits. I have told how 
already once in my life at Wimblehurst I had a period 
of discipline and continuous effort and how when I 
came to South Kensington I became demoralized by the 
immense effect of London, by its innumerable impera- 
tive demands upon my attention and curiosity. And 
I parted with much of my personal pride when I gave 
up science for the development of Tono-Bungay. But 
my poverty kept me abstinent and my youthful roman- 
ticism kept me chaste until my married life was well 
under way. Then in all directions I relaxed. I did a 
large amount of work, but I never troubled to think 
whether it was my maximum nor whether the moods 
and indolences that came to me at times were avoidable 
things. With the coming of plenty I ate abundantly 
and foolishly, drank freely and followed my impulses 
more and more carelessly. I felt no reason why I 
should do anything else. Never at any point did I use 
myself to the edge of my capacity. The emotional 
crisis of my divorce did not produce any immediate 
change in these matters of personal discipline. I found 
some difficulty at first in concentrating my mind upon 
scientific work, it was so much more exacting than busi- 
ness, but I got over that difficulty by smoking. I became 
an inordinate cigar smoker ; it gave me moods of 
profound depression, but I treated these usually by 
the homoeopathic method, — by lighting another cigar. 
I didn't realize at all how loose my moral and nervous 
fibre had become until I reached the practical side of 
my investigations and was face to face with the necessity 


of finding out just how it felt to use a glider and just 
what a man could do with one. 

I got into this relaxed habit of living in spite of 
very real tendencies in my nature towards discipline. 
I've never been in love with self-indulgence. That 
philosophy of the loose lip and the lax paunch is one 
for which I've always had an instinctive distrust. I 
like bare things, stripped things, plain, austere and 
continent things, fine lines and cold colours. But in 
these plethoric times when there is too much coarse 
stuff for everybody and the struggle for life takes the 
form of competitive advertisement and the effort to fill 
your neighbour's eye, when there is no urgent demand 
either for personal courage, sound nerves or stark 
beauty, we find ourselves by accident. Always before 
these times the bulk of the people did not over-eat 
themselves because they couldn't whether they wanted 
to do so or not, and all but a very few were kept " fit " 
by unavoidable exercise and personal danger. Now, if 
only he pitch his standard low enough and keep free 
from pride, almost any one can achieve a sort of excess. 
You can go through contemporary life fudging and 
evading, indulging and slacking, never really hungry 
nor frightened nor passionately stirred, your highest 
moment a mere sentimental orgasm, and your first 
real contact with primary and elemental necessities, 
the sweat of your death-bed. So I think it was with 
my uncle ; so, very nearly, it was with me. 

But the glider brought me up smartly. I had to 
find out how these things went down the air, and the 
only way to find out is to go down with one. And for 
a time I wouldn't face it. 

There is something impersonal about a book I 
suppose. At any rate I find myself able to write down 


here just the confession I've never been able to make to 
any one face to face, the frightful trouble it was to me 
to bring myself to do what I suppose every other 
coloured boy in the West Indies could do without 
turning a hair, and that is to fling myself off for my 
first soar down the wind. The first trial was bound to 
be the worst, it was an experiment I made with life, 
and the chance of death or injury was, I supposed, 
about equal to the chance of success. I believed that 
with a dawn-like lucidity. I had begun with a glider 
that I imagined was on the lines of the Wright 
Brothers' aeroplane, but I could not be sure. It might 
turn over. I might upset it. It might burrow its 
nose at the end and smash itself and me. The con- 
ditions of the flight necessitated alert attention ; it 
wasn't a thing to be done by jumping off and shutting 
one's eyes or getting angry or drunk to do it. One had 
to use one's weight to balance. And when at last I 
did it it was horrible— for ten seconds. For ten 
seconds or so, as I swept down the air flattened on 
my infernal framework and with the wind in my eyes, 
the rush of the ground beneath me filled me with sick 
and helpless terror ; I felt as though some violent 
oscillatory current was throbbing in brain and back- 
bone, and I groaned aloud. I set my teeth and 
groaned. It was a groan wrung out of me in spite of 
myself. My sensations of terror swooped to a climax. 

And then, you know, they ended ! 

Suddenly my terror was over and done with. I was 
soaring through the air right way up, steadily, and no 
mischance had happened. I felt intensely alive and my 
nerves were strung like a bow. I shifted a limb, swerved 
and shouted between fear and triumph as I recovered from 
the swerve and heeled the other way and steadied myself. 


I thought I was going to hit a rook that was flying 
athwart me, — it was queer with what projectile silence 
that jumped upon me out of nothingness, and I yelled 
helplessly, " Get out of the way ! " The bird doubled 
itself up like a partly inverted V, flapped, went up to 
the right abruptly and vanished from my circle of 
interest. Then I saw the shadow of my aeroplane 
keeping a fixed distance before me and very steady, and 
the turf as it seemed streaming out behind it. The 
turf! — it wasn't after all streaming so impossibly 

LtlS X* • ■ • 

When I came gliding down to the safe spread of 
level green I had chosen, I was as cool and ready as a 
city clerk who drops off an omnibus in motion, and I 
had learnt much more than soaring. I tilted up her 
nose at the right moment, levelled again and grounded 
like a snowflake on a windless day. I lay flat for an 
instant and then knelt up and got on my feet atremble 
but very satisfied with myself. Cothope was running 
down the hill to me. . . . 

But from that day I went into training, and I kept 
myself in training for many months. I had delayed my 
experiments for very nearly six weeks on various excuses 
because of my dread of this first flight, because of the 
slackness of body and spirit that had come to me with 
the business life. The shame of that cowardice spurred 
me none the less because it was probably altogether my 
own secret. I felt that Cothope at any rate might 
suspect. Well, — he shouldn't suspect again. 

It is curious that I remember that shame and self- 
accusation and its consequences far more distinctly 
than I recall the weeks of vacillation before I soared. 
For a time I went altogether without alcohol, I stopped 
smoking altogether and ate very sparingly, and every 


day I did something that called a little upon ray 
nerves and muscles. I soared as frequently as I 
could. I substituted a motor-bicycle for the London 
train and took my chances in the southward traffic, and 
I even tried what thrills were to be got upon a horse. 
But they put me on made horses, and I conceived a 
perhaps unworthy contempt for the certitudes of eques- 
trian exercise in comparison with the adventures of 
mechanism. Also I walked along the high wall at the 
back of Lady Grove garden, and at last brought 
myself to stride the gap where the gate comes. If I 
didn't altogether get rid of a certain giddy instinct by 
such exercises, at least I trained my will until it didn't 
matter. And soon I no longer dreaded flight but was 
eager to go higher into the air, and I came to esteem 
soaring upon a glider that even over the deepest dip in 
the ground had barely forty feet of fall beneath it, a 
mere mockery of what flight might be. I began to 
dream of the keener freshness in the air high above the 
beechwoods, and it was rather to satisfy that desire 
than as any legitimate development of my proper work 
that presently I turned a part of my energies and the 
bulk of my private income to the problem of the 
navigable balloon. 

I had gone far beyond that initial stage ; I had 
had two smashes and a broken rib which my aunt 
nursed with great energy, and was getting some reputa- 
tion in the aeronautic world when suddenly, as though 
she had never really left it, the Honourable Beatrice 
Normandy, dark-eyed, and with the old disorderly wave 
of the hair from her brow, came back into my life. 


She came riding down a grass path in the thickets 
below Lady Grove, perched up on a huge black horse, 
and the old Earl of Carnaby and Archie Garvell, her 
half-brother, were with her. My uncle had been 
bothering me about the Crest Hill hot-water pipes, 
and we were returning by a path transverse to theirs 
and came out upon them suddenly. Old Carnaby was 
trespassing on our ground and so he hailed us in a 
friendly fashion and pulled up to talk to us. 

I didn't note Beatrice at all at first. I was 
interested in Lord Carnaby, that remarkable vestige 
of his own brilliant youth. I had heard of him but 
never seen him. For a man of sixty-five who had 
sinned all the sins, so they said, and laid waste the 
most magnificent political debut of any man of his 
generation, he seemed to me to be looking remarkable 
fit and fresh. He was a lean little man with grey-blue 
eyes in his brown face, and his cracked voice was the 
worst thing in his effect. 

"Hope you don't mind us coming this way, 
Ponderevo," he cried ; and my uncle, who was some- 
times a little too general and generous with titles, 
answered, " Not at all, my lord, not at all ! Glad you 
make use of it l 11 

" You're building a great place over the hill, 1 "' said 

" Thought I'd make a show for once," 11 said my uncle. 
" It looks big because it's spread out for the sun.'" 

" Air and sunlight," said the earl. " You can't 
have too much of them. But before our time they 
used to build for shelter and water and the high- 
road." . . . 

Then I discovered that the silent figure behind the 
earl was Beatrice. 


Td forgotten her sufficiently to think for a moment 
that she hadn't changed at all since she had watched 
me from behind the skirts of Lady Drew. She was 
looking at me, and her dainty brow under her broad- 
brimmed hat — she was wearing a grey hat and loose 
unbuttoned coat — was knit with perplexity, trying, 
I suppose, to remember where she had seen me before. 
Her shaded eyes met mine with that mute question. . . . 

It seemed incredible to me she didn't remember. 

" Well, 1 ' said the earl and touched his horse. 

Garvell was patting the neck of his horse which was 
inclined to fidget, and disregarding me. He nodded 
over his shoulder and followed. His movement seemed 
to release a train of memories in her. She glanced 
suddenly at him and then back at me with a flash of 
recognition that warmed instantly to a faint smile. 
She hesitated as if to speak to me, smiled broadly and 
understanding^ and turned to follow the others. All 
three broke into a canter and she did not look back. 
I stood for a second or so at the crossing of the lanes, 
watching her recede, and then became aware that my 
uncle was already some paces off and talking over his 
shoulder in the belief that I was close behind. 

I turned about and strode to overtake him. 

My mind was full of Beatrice and this surprise. 
I remembered her simply as a Normandy. I'd clean 
forgotten that Garvell was the son and she the step- 
daughter of our neighbour, Lady Osprey. Indeed, 
I'd probably forgotten at that time that we had Lady 
Osprey as a neighbour. There was no reason at all 
for remembering it. It was amazing to find her in this 
Surrey countryside, when I'd never thought of her as 
living anywhere in the world but at Bladesover Park, 
near forty miles and twenty years away. She was so 

2 A 

1 c 


alive — so unchanged ! The same quick warm blood 
was in her cheeks. It seemed only yesterday that we 
had kissed among the bracken stems. . . . 

" Eh?" I said. 

" I say he's good stuff," said my uncle. " You can 
say what yon like against the aristocracy, George ; Lord 
Carnabv's rattling good stuff. There's a sort of Savoir 
Falrc, something — it's an old-fashioned phrase, George, 
but a good one — there's a Bong-Tong. . . . It's like 
the Oxford turf, George, you can't grow it in a year. 
I wonder how they do it ? It's living always on a Scale, 
George. It's being there from the beginning." . . . 

"She might," I said to myself, "be a picture by 
Romney come alive ! " 

"They tell all these stories about him," said my 
uncle, " but what do they all amount to ?" 

" Gods !" I said to myself; " but why have I forgotten 
for so long ? Those queer little brows of hers — the touch 
of mischief in her eyes — the way she breaks into a smile !" 

" I don't blame him," said my uncle. " Mostly it's 
imagination. That and leisure, George. When I was 
a young man I was kept pretty busy. So were you. 
Even then ! "' 

What puzzled me more particularly was the queer 
trick of my memory that had never recalled any thing vital 
of Beatrice whatever when I met Gar veil again, that had, 
indeed, recalled nothing except a boyish antagonism 
and our fight. Now when my senses were full of her, it 
seemed incredible that I could ever have forgotten. . . • 


" Oh Crikey .' " said my aunt, reading a letter behind 
her coffee-machine. " Here's a young woman, George ! " 


We were breakfasting together in the big window 
bay at Lady Grove that looks upon the iris beds ; my 
uncle was in London. 

I sounded an interrogative note and decapitated 
an egg. 

" Who's Beatrice Normandy ? " asked my aunt. 
" I've not heard of her before.*" 

" She the young woman ? " 

" Yes. Says she knows you. I'm no hand at old 
etiquette, George, but her line is a bit unusual. Prac- 
tically she says she's going to make her mother " 

" Eh ? Step-mother, isn't it ? " 

"You seemtoknowa lotabout her. She says 'mother,'' 
— Lady Osprey. They're to call on me, anyhow, next 
Wednesday week at four, and there's got to beyou fortea."" 


« You— for tea. 1 ' 

" H'm. She had rather — force of character when 
I knew her before."" 

I became aware of my aunt's head sticking out 
obliquely from behind the coffee-machine and regarding 
me with wide blue curiosity. I met her gaze for a 
moment, flinched, coloured and laughed. 

"I've known her longer than I've known you," 
I said, and explained at length. 

My aunt kept her eye on me over and round the 
coffee-machine as I did so. She was greatly interested, 
and asked several elucidatory questions. 

" Why didn't you tell me the day you saw her ? 
You've had her on your mind for a week," she said. 

" It is odd I didn't tell you," I admitted. 

"You thought I'd get a Down on her," said my 
aunt conclusively. "That's what you thought," and 
opened the rest of her letters. 


The two ladies came in a pony-carriage with con- 
spicuous punctuality, and I had the unusual experience 
of seeing my aunt entertaining callers. We had tea 
upon the terrace under the cedar, but old Lady Osprey 
being an embittered Protestant had never before seen 
the inside of the house and we made a sort of tour 
of inspection that reminded me of my first visit to the 
place. In spite of my preoccupation with Beatrice, I 
stored a queer little memory of the contrast between 
the two other women ; my aunt, tall, slender and 
awkward, in a simple blue home-keeping dress, an 
omnivorous reader and a very authentic wit, and the 
lady of pedigree, short and plump, dressed with 
Victorian fussiness, living at the intellectual level of 
palmistry and genteel fiction, pink in the face and 
generally flustered by a sense of my aunt's social 
strangeness and disposed under the circumstances to 
behave rather like an imitation of the more queenly 
moments of her own cook. The one seemed made of 
whalebone, the other of dough. My aunt was nervous, 
partly through the intrinsic difficulty of handling the 
lady and partly because of her passionate desire to 
watch Beatrice and me, and her nervousness took a 
common form with her, a wider clumsiness of gesture 
and an exacerbation of her habitual oddity of phrase 
which did much to deepen the pink perplexity of the 
lady of title. For instance I heard my aunt admit that 
one of the Stuart Durgan ladies did look a bit " balmy 
on the crumpet, 11 she described the knights of the age 
of chivalry as " korvorting about on the off-chance 
of a dragon, 11 she explained she was " always old 
mucking about the garden, 11 and instead of offering 
me a Garibaldi biscuit, she asked me with that faint 
lisp of hers, to "have some squashed flies, George. 11 


I felt convinced Lady Osprey would describe her as " a 
most eccentric person " on the very first opportunity ; 
— "a most eccentric person/' One could see her, as 
people say, " shaping " for that. 

Beatrice was dressed very quietly in brown with 
a simple but courageous broad-brimmed hat, and an 
unexpected quality of being grown-up and responsible. 
She guided her step-mother through the first encounter, 
scrutinized my aunt and got us all well in movement 
through the house, and then she turned her attention 
to me with a quick and half-confident smile. 

" We haven't met, 1 ' she said, " since " 

" It was in the Warren." 

" Of course," she said, " the Warren ! I remem- 
bered it all except just the name. ... I was eight." 

Her smiling eyes insisted on my memories being 
thorough. I looked up and met them squarely, a 
little at a loss for what I should say. 

"I gave you away pretty completely," she said,, 
meditating upon my face. " And afterwards I gave 
away Archie." 

She turned her face away from the others, and her 
voice fell ever so little. 

" They gave him a licking for telling lies ! " she 
said, as though that was a pleasant memory. " And 
when it was all over I went to our wigwam. You 
remember the wigwam ? " 

« Out in the West Wood ? " 

" Yes — and cried — for all the evil I had done you, 
I suppose . . . I've often thought of it since. . . ." 

Lady Osprey stopped for us to overtake her. " My 
dear ! " she said to Beatrice. " Such a beautiful 
gallery ! " Then she stared very hard at me, puzzled 
in the most naked fashion to understand who I might be. 


" People say the oak staircase is rather good," said 
my aunt, and led the way. 

Lady Osprey, with her skirts gathered for the 
ascent to the gallery and her hand on the newel, turned 
and addressed a look full of meaning — overflowing 
indeed with meanings — at her charge. The chief mean- 
ing no doubt was caution about myself, but much of 
it was just meaning at large. I chanced to catch the 
response in a mirror and detected Beatrice with her 
nose wrinkled into a swift and entirely diabolical 
grimace. Lady Osprey became a deeper shade of pink 
and speechless with indignation, — it was evident she 
disavowed all further responsibility, as she followed my 
aunt upstairs. 

" It's dark, but there's a sort of dignity," said 
Beatrice very distinctly, regarding the hall with serene 
tranquillity, and allowing the unwilling feet on the 
stairs to widen their distance from us. She stood a 
step up, so that she looked down a little upon me and 
over me at the old hall. 

She turned upon me abruptly when she thought 
her step-mother was beyond ear-shot. 

" But how did you get here ? " she asked. 

« Here ? " 

" All this." She indicated space and leisure by a wave 
of the hand at hall and tall windows and sunlit terrace. 
" Weren't you the housekeeper's son ? " 

" I've adventured. My uncle has become — a great 
financier. He used to be a little chemist about twenty 
miles from Bladesover. We're promoters now, amalga- 
mators, big people on the new model." 

" I understand." She regarded me with interested 
eyes, visibly thinking me out. 

" And you recognized me ? " I asked. 


" After a second or so. I saw you recognized me. 
I couldn't place you, but I knew I knew you. Then 
Archie being there helped me to remember/ 1 

"I'm glad to meet again," I ventured. "Td never 
forgotten you. 1 ' 

" One doesn't forget those childish things." 

We regarded one another for a moment with a 
curiously easy and confident satisfaction in coming- 
together again. I cant explain our ready zest in one 
another. The thing was so. We pleased each other, 
we had no doubt in our minds that we pleased each 
other. From the first we were at our ease with one 
another. "So picturesque, so very picturesque,' 1 '' came 
a voice from above, and then ; " Bee-atrice ! " 

" I've a hundred things I want to know about you," 
she said with an easy intimacy, as we went up the 
winding steps. . . . 

As the four of us sat at tea together under the 
cedar on the terrace, she asked questions about my 
aeronautics. My aunt helped with a word or so about 
my broken ribs. Lady Osprey evidently regarded 
flying as a most undesirable and improper topic — a 
blasphemous intrusion upon the angels. "It isn't 
flying," I explained. " We don't fly yet." 

" You never will," she said compactlv. " You never 

" Well," I said, " we do what we can." 

The little lady lifted a small gloved hand and 
indicated a height of about four feet from the ground. 
" Thus far," she said, " thus far — and no farther ! 
No ! " 

She became emphatically pink. " A r o," she said 
again quite conclusively, and coughed shortly. " Thank 
you," she said to her ninth or tenth cake. Beatrice 


burst into cheerful laughter with her eye on me. I 
was lying on the turf, and this perhaps caused a slight 
confusion about the primordial curse in Lady Osprey's 

" Upon his belly shall he go, 11 she said with quiet 
distinctness, " all the days of his life." 

After which we talked no more of aeronautics. 

Beatrice sat bunched together in a chair and re- 
garded me with exactly the same scrutiny, I thought, 
the same adventurous aggression, that I had faced long 
ago at the tea-table in my mother's room. She was 
amazingly like that little Princess of my Bladesover 
memories, the wilful misbehaviours of her hair seemed 
the same — her voice ; things one would have expected 
to be changed altogether. She formed her plans in the 
same quick way, and acted with the same irresponsible 

She stood up abruptly. 

" What is there beyond the terrace ? " she said, and 
found me promptly beside her. 

I invented a view for her. 

At the further corner from the cedar she perched 
herself up upon the parapet and achieved an air of 
comfort among the lichenous stones. " Now tell me," 
she said, " all about yourself. Tell me about yourself; 
I know such duffers of men ! They all do the same 
things. How did you get — here ? All my men were 
here. They couldn't have got here if they hadn't been 
here always. They wouldn't have thought it right. 
You've climbed." 

" If it's climbing," I said. 

She went off at a tangent. " It's — I don't know if 
you'll understand — interesting to meet you again. I've 
remembered you. I don't know why, but I have. I've 


used you as a sort of lay figure — when I've told myself 
stories. But you've always been rather stiff and difficult 
in my stories — in ready-made clothes — a Labour Member 
or a Bradlaugh, or something like that. You're not 
like that a bit. And yet you are ! " 

She looked at me. " Was it much of a fight ? 
They make out it is. I don't know why ? " 

" I was shot up here by an accident," I said. " There 
was no fight at all. Except to keep honest perhaps — 
and I made no great figure in that. I and my uncle 
mixed a medicine and it blew us up. No merit in 
that ! But you've been here all the time. Tell me 
what you have done first." 

" One thing we didn't do." She meditated for a 

" What ? " said I. 

" Produce a little half-brother for Bladesover. So 
it went to the Phillbrick gang. And they let it ! And 
I and my step-mother — we let too. And live in a 
little house." 

She nodded her head vaguely over her shoulder, 
and turned to me again. " Well, suppose it was an 
accident. Here you are ! Now you're here, what are 
you going to do ? You're young. Is it to be Parlia- 
ment ? I heard some men the other day talking about 
you. Before I knew you were you. They said that 
was what you ought to do." . . . 

She put me through my intentions with a close 
and vital curiosity. It was just as she had tried to 
imagine me a soldier and place me years ago. She 
made me feel more planless and incidental than ever. 
" You want to make a flying-machine," she pursued. 
" And when you fly ? What then ? Would it be for 
fighting ? " . . . 


I told her something of my experimental work. 
She had never heard of the soaring aeroplane, and was 
excited by the thought, and keen to hear about it. 
She had thought all the work so- far had been a mere 
projecting of impossible machines. For her Pilcher and 
Lilienthal had died in vain. She did not know such 
men had lived in the world. 

" But that's dangerous ! " she said, with a note of 

" Oh ! — ifs dangerous." . . . 

" Bee-atrice ! " Lady Osprey called. 

Beatrice dropped from the wall to her feet. 

" Where do you do this soaring ? " 

" Beyond the high Barrows. East of Crest Hill 
and the wood. 11 

"Do you mind people coming to see? 11 

" Whenever you please. Only let me know " 

" 111 take my chance some day. Some day soon. 11 
She looked at me thoughtfully, smiled, and our talk 
was at an end. 

§ 4 

All my later work in aeronautics is associated in 
my memory with the quality of Beatrice, with her 
incidental presence, with things she said and did and 
things I thought of that had reference to her. 

In the spring of that year I had got to a flying 
machine that lacked nothing but longitudinal stability. 
My model flew like a bird for fifty or a hundred yards 
or so, and then either dived and broke its nose or what 
was commoner reared up, slid back and smashed its 
propeller. The rhythm of the pitching puzzled me. 
I felt it must obey some laws not yet quite clearly 


stated. I became therefore a student of theory and 
literature for a time, I hit upon the string of con- 
siderations that led me to what is called Ponderevo's 
Principle and my F.K.S., and I worked this out in 
three long papers. Meanwhile I made a lot of turn- 
table and glider models and started in upon an idea of 
combining gas-bags and gliders. Balloon work was 
new to me. I had made one or two ascents in the 
balloons of the Aero Club before I started my gaso- 
meter and the balloon shed and gave Cothope a couple 
of months with Sir Peter Rumchase. My uncle found 
part of the money for these developments ; he was 
growing interested and competitive in this business 
because of Lord Boom's prize and the amount of reclame 
involved, and it was at his request that I named my 
first navigable balloon Lord Roberts Alpha. 

Lord Roberts a very nearly terminated all my 
investigations. My idea both in this and its more 
successful and famous younger brother Lord Roberts |3 
was to utilize the idea of a contractile balloon with 
a rigid flat base, a balloon shaped rather like an in- 
verted boat that should almost support the apparatus 
but not quite. The gas-bog was of the chambered sort 
used for these long forms, and not with an internal 
balloonette. The trouble was to make the thing con- 
tractile. This I sought to do by fixing a long fine- 
meshed silk net over it that was fastened to be rolled 
up on two longitudinal rods. Practically I contracted 
my sausage gas-bag by netting it down. The ends 
were too complex forme to describe here, but I thought 
them out elaborately and they were very carefully 
planned. Lord Roberts a was furnished with a single 
big screw forward and there was a rudder aft. The 
engine was the first one to be, so to speak, right in the 


plane of the gas-bag. I lay immediately under the bal- 
loon on a sort of glider framework far away from either 
engine or rudder, controlling them by wire-pulls con- 
structed on the principle of the well-known Bowden 
brake of the cyclist. 

But Lord Roberts a has been pretty exhaustively 
figured and described in various aeronautical publica- 
tions. The unforeseen defect was the badness of the 
work in the silk netting. It tore aft as soon as I 
began to contract the balloon and the last two segments 
immediately bulged through the hole, exactly as an 
inner tube will bulge through the ruptured outer cover 
of a pneumatic tyre, and then the sharp edge of the 
torn net cut the oiled-silk of the distended last segment 
along a weak seam and burst it with a loud report. 

Up to that point the whole thing had been going 
on extremely well. As a navigable balloon and before 
I contracted it, the Lord Roberts a was an unqualified 
success. It had run out of the shed admirably at nine 
or ten miles an hour or more, and although there was a 
gentle south-wester blowing, it had gone up and turned 
and faced it as well as any craft of the sort I have 
ever seen. 

I lay in my customary glider position, horizontal 
and face downward, and the invisibility of all the 
machinery gave an extraordinary effect of independent 
levitation. Only by looking up as it were and turning 
my head back could I see the flat aeroplane bottom of 
the balloon and the rapid successive passages, swish, 
swish, swish of the vans of the propeller. I made a 
wide circle over Lady Grove and Duffield and out 
towards Effingham and came back quite successfully to 
the starting-point. 

Down below in the October sunlight were my sheds 


and the little group that had been summoned to witness 
the start, their faces craned upward and most of them 
scrutinizing my expression through field-glasses. I 
could see Carnaby and Beatrice on horseback, and two 
girls I did not know with them, Cothope and three or 
four workmen I employed, my aunt and Mrs. Levinstein, 
who was staying with her, on foot, and Dimmock the 
veterinary surgeon and one or two others. My shadow 
moved a little to the north of them like the shadow of 
a fish. At Lady Grove the servants were out on the 
lawn, and the Duffield school playground swarmed with 
children too indifferent to aeronautics to cease their 
playing. But in the Crest Hill direction — the place 
looked extraordinarily squat and ugly from above — 
there were knots and strings of staring workmen every- 
where — not one of them working but all agape. (But 
now I write of it, it occurs to me that perhaps it was 
their dinner-hour ; it was certainly near twelve.) I 
hung for a moment or so enjoying the soar, then 
turned about to face a clear stretch of open down, let 
the engine out to full speed and set my rollers at work 
rolling in the net and so tightening the gas-bags. 
Instantly the pace quickened with the diminished 
resistance. . . . 

In that moment before the bang I think I must 
have been really flying. Before the net ripped, just in 
the instant when my balloon was at its systole, the 
whole apparatus was, I am convinced, heavier than air. 
That however is a claim that has been disputed, and in 
any case this sort of priority is a very trivial thing. 

Then came a sudden retardation, instantly followed 
by an inexpressibly disconcerting tilt downward of the 
machine. That I still recall with horror. I couldn't 
see what was happening at all and I couldn't imagine. 


It was a mysterious inexplicable dive. The thing it 
seemed without rhyme or reason was kicking up its 
heels in the air. The bang followed immediately and 
I perceived I was falling rapidly. 

I was too much taken by surprise to think of the 
proper cause of the report. I don't even know what I 
made of it. I was obsessed I suppose by that perpetual 
dread of the modern aeronaut, a flash between engine 
and balloon. Yet obviously I wasn't wrapped in flames. 
I ought to have realized instantly it wasn't that. I 
did at any rate, whatever other impressions there were, 
release the winding of the outer net and let the balloon 
expand again and that no doubt did something to 
break my fall. I don't remember doing that. Indeed 
all I do remember is the giddy effect upon the land- 
scape of falling swiftly upon it down a flat spiral, the 
hurried rush of fields and trees and cottages on my left 
.shoulder and the overhung feeling as if the whole 
apparatus was pressing down the top of my head. I 
didn't stop or attempt to stop the screw. That was 
going on swish, swish, swish all the time. 

Cothope really knows more about the fall than I 
do. He describes the easterly start, the tilt, and the 
appearance and bursting of a sort of bladder aft. Then 
down I swooped, very swiftly but not nearly so steeply 
as I imagined I was doing. " Fifteen or twenty 
degrees," said Cothope, " to be exact." From him it 
was that I learnt that I let the nets loose again and so 
arrested my fall. He thinks I was more in control of 
myself than I remember. But I do not see why I should 
have forgotten so excellent a resolution. His impres- 
sion is that I was really steering and trying to drop 
into the Farthing Down beeches. " You hit the trees," 
he said, "and the whole affair stood on its nose among 


them and then very slowly crumpled up. I saw you'd 
been jerked out as I thought and I didn't stay for 
more. I rushed for my bicycle. 11 

As a matter of fact it was purely accidental that I 
came down in the woods. I am reasonably certain that 
I had no more control then than a thing in a parcel. 
I remember I felt a sort of wincing, " Now it comes ! " 
as the trees rushed up to me. If I remember that 
I should remember steering. Then the propeller 
smashed, everything stopped with a jerk and I was 
falling into a mass of yellowing leaves, and Lord 
Roberts a, so it seemed to me, was going back into 
the sky. 

I felt twigs and things hit me in the face, but I 
didn't feel injured at the time; I clutched at things 
that broke, tumbled through a froth of green and 
yellow into a shadowy world of great bark-covered 
arms, and there snatching wildly, got a grip on a fair 
round branch and hung. 

I became intensely alert and clearheaded. I held 
by that branch for a moment and looked about me and 
caught at another and then found myself holding to a 
practicable fork. I swung forward to that and got a 
leg round it below its junction and so was able 
presently to clamber down, climbing very coolly and 
deliberately. I dropped ten feet or so from the lowest 
branch and fell on my feet. " That's all right," I said 
and stared up through the tree to see what I could of 
the deflated and crumpled remains that had once been 
Lord Roberts a festooned on the branches it had broken. 
" Gods ! " I said, " What a tumble ! " 

I wiped something that trickled from my face and 
was shocked to see my hand covered with blood. I 
looked at myself and saw what seemed to me an 


astonishing quantity of blood running down my arm 
and shoulder. I perceived my mouth was full of blood. 
It's a queer moment when one realizes one is hurt and 
perhaps badly hurt and has still to discover just how 
far one is hurt. I explored my face carefully and found 
unfamiliar contours on the left side. The broken end 
of a branch had driven right through my cheek, 
damaging my cheek and teeth and gums, and left a 
splinter of itself stuck like an explorer's farthest-point 
flag in the upper maxillary. That and a sprained 
wrist were all my damage. But I bled as though I had 
been chopped to pieces, and it seemed to me that my 
face had been driven in. I can't describe just the 
horrible disgust I felt at that. 

"This blood must be stopped, anyhow," I said, 
thick-headedly. " I wonder where there's a spider's 
■web," — an odd twist for my mind to take. But it was 
the only treatment that occurred to me. 

I must have conceived some idea of going home 
unaided, because I was thirty yards from the tree 
before I dropped. 

Then a kind of black disk appeared in the middle 
of the world and rushed out to the edge of things and 
blotted them out. I don't remember falling down. I 
fainted from excitement, disgust at my injury and loss 
of blood, and lay there until Cothope found me. 

He was the first to find me, scorching as he did 
over the downland turf, and making a wide course to 
get the Carnaby plantations at their narrowest. Then 
presently, while he was trying to apply the methodical 
teachings of the St. John's Ambulance classes to a 
rather abnormal case, Beatrice came galloping through 
the trees full-tilt with Lord Carnaby hard behind her, 
and she was hatless, muddy from a fall and white as 


death. " And cool as a cucumber too," said Cothopc, 
turning it over in his mind as he told me. 

(" They never seem quite to have their heads, and 
never seem quite to lose 'em," said Cothope, general- 
izing about the sex.) 

Also he witnessed she acted with remarkable decision. 
The question was whether I should be taken to the 
house her step-mother occupied at Bedley Corner, the 
Carnaby dower house, or down to Carnaby's place at 
Easting. Beatrice had no doubt in the matter, for 
she meant to nurse me. Carnaby didn't seem to want 
that to happen. " She xooulcl have it wasn't half so 
far," said Cothope. " She faced us out. . . . 

"I hate to be faced out of my opinions, so IVe 
taken a pedometer over it since. It's exactly forty- 
three yards further. 

" Lord Carnaby looked at her pretty straight," said 
Cothope, finishing the picture ; " and then he gave in." 

But my story has made a jump from June to 
October, and during that time my relations with 
Beatrice and the countryside that was her setting had 
developed in many directions. She came and went, 
moving in an orbit for which I had no data, going to 
London and Paris, into Wales and Northampton, while 
her step-mother on some independent system of her own 
also vanished and recurred intermittently. At home 
they obeyed the rule of an inflexible old maid, Charlotte, 
and Beatrice exercised all the rights of proprietorship 
in Carnaby "s extensive stables. Her interest in me was 
from the first undisguised. She found her way to my 
work sheds and developed rapidly, in spite of the sincere 


discouragement of Cothope, into a keen amateur of 
aeronautics. She would come sometimes in the morning, 
sometimes in the afternoon, sometimes afoot with an 
Irish terrier, sometimes riding. She would come for 
three or four days every day, vanish for a fortnight or 
three weeks, return. 

It was not long before I came to look for her. 
From the first I found her immensely interesting. To 
me she was a new feminine type altogether, — I have 
made it plain I think how limited was my knowledge 
of women. But she made me not simply interested in 
her, but in myself. She became for me something that 
greatly changes a man's world. How shall I put it ? 
She became an audience. Since I've emerged from the 
emotional developments of the affair I have thought 
it out in a hundred aspects, and it does seem to me 
that this way in which men and women make audiences 
for one another is a curiously influential force in their 
lives. For some it seems an audience is a vital necessity, 
they seek audiences as creatures seek food ; others 
again, my uncle among them, can play to an imaginary 
audience. I, I think, have lived and can live, without 
one. In my adolescence I was my own audience and 
my own court of honour. And to have an audience 
in one's mind is to play a part, to become self-conscious 
and dramatic. For many years I had been self-forgetful 
and scientific. I had lived for work and impersonal 
interests until I found scrutiny, applause and expecta- 
tion in Beatrice's eyes. Then I began to live for the 
effect I imagined I made upon her, to make that very 
soon the principal value in my life. I played to her. 
I did things for the look of them. I began to dream 
more and more of beautiful situations and fine poses 
and groupings with her and for her. 


I put these things down because they puzzle me. I 
think I was in love with Beatrice, as being in love is 
usually understood, but it was quite a different state 
altogether from my passionate hunger for Marion, or 
my keen sensuous desire for and pleasure in Effie. These 
were selfish sincere things, fundamental and instinctive, 
as sincere as the leap of a tiger. But until matters 
drew to a crisis with Beatrice, there was an immense 
imaginative insurgence of a quite different quality. I 
am setting down here very gravely, and perhaps absurdly, 
what are no doubt elementary commonplaces for innumer- 
able people. This love that grew up between Beatrice 
and myself was, I think — I put it quite tentatively and 
rather curiously — romantic love. That unfortunate 
and truncated affair of my uncle and the Scrymgeour 
lady was really of the same stuff, if a little different in 
quality. I have to admit that. The factor of audience 
was of primary importance in either case. 

Its effect upon me was to make me in many respects 
adolescent again. It made me keener upon the point 
of honour, and anxious and eager to do high and 
splendid things, and in particular, brave things. So 
far it ennobled and upheld me. But it did also push 
me towards vulgar and showy things. At bottom it 
was disingenuous ; it gave my life the quality of stage 
scenery, with one side to the audience, another side that 
wasn't meant to show, and an economy of substance. 
It certainly robbed my work of high patience and 
quality. I cut down the toil of research in my eager- 
ness and her eagerness for fine flourishes in the air, 
flights that would tell. I shirked the longer road. 

And it robbed me too, of any fine perception of 
absurdity. . . . 

Yet that was not everything in our relationship. 



The elemental thing was there also. It came in very 

It was one day in the summer, though I do not 
now recall without reference to my experimental 
memoranda whether it was in July or August. I 
was working with a new and more bird-like aeroplane 
with wing curvatures studied from Lilienthal, Pilcher 
and Phillips, that I thought would give a different 
rhythm for the pitching oscillations than anything I'd 
had before. I was soaring my long course from the 
framework on the old barrow by my sheds down to 
Tinker's Corner. It is a clear stretch of downland, 
except for two or three thickets of box and thorn to 
the right of my course ; one transverse trough, in which 
there is bush and a small rabbit warren, comes in from 
the east. I had started, and was very intent on the 
peculiar long swoop with which my new arrangement 
flew. Then, without any sort of notice, right ahead of 
me appeared Beatrice riding towards Tinker's Corner 
to waylay and talk to me. She looked round over her 
shoulder, saw me coming, touched her horse to a gallop, 
and then the brute bolted right into the path of my 

There was a queer moment of doubt whether we 
shouldn't all smash together. I had to make up my 
mind very quickly whether I would pitch-up and drop 
backward at once and take my chance of falling un- 
damaged, a poor chance it would have been, in order to 
avoid any risk to her, or whether I would lift against 
the wind and soar right over her. This latter I did. 
She had already got her horse in hand when I came up 
to her. Her woman's body lay along his neck, and she 
glanced up as I, with wings aspread, and every nerve 
in a state of tension, swept over her. 


Then I had landed, and was going back to where 
her horse stood still and trembling-. 

We exchanged no greetings. She slid from her 
saddle into my arms, and for one instant I held her. 
" Those great wings," she said, and that was all. 

She lay in my arms, and I thought for a moment 
she had fainted. 

" Very near a nasty accident," said Cothope, coming 
up and regarding our grouping with disfavour. He 
took her horse by the bridle. " Very dangerous thing 
coming across us like that." 

Beatrice disengaged herself from me, stood for a 
moment ti'embling, and then sat down on the turf. 
" I'll just sit down for a moment," she said. 

« Oh ! " she said. 

She covered her face with her hands while Cothope 
looked at her with an expression between suspicion and 

For some moments nobody moved. Then Cothope 
remarked that perhaps he'd better get her water. 

As for me I was filled with a new outrageous idea 
begotten I scarcelv know how from this incident with 
its instant contacts and swift emotions, and that was 
that I must make love to and possess Beatrice. I see 
no particular reason why that thought should have come 
to me in that moment, but it did. I do not believe 
that before then I had thought of our relations in such 
terms at all. Suddenly, as I remember it, the factor 
of passion came. She crouched there, and I stood over 
her and neither of us said a word. But it was just as 
though something had been shouted from the sky. 

Cothope had gone twenty paces perhaps when she 
uncovered her face. " I shan't want any water," she 
said. " Call him back." 



After that the spirit of our relations changed. The 
old ease had gone. She came to me less frequently, 
and when she came she would have some one with her, 
usually old Carnaby, and he would do the bulk of the 
talking. All through September she was away. When 
we were alone together there was a curious constraint. 
We became clouds of inexpressible feeling towards one 
another ; we could think of nothing that was not too 
momentous for words. 

Then came the smash of Lord Roberts a, and I 
found myself with a bandaged face in a bedroom in 
the Bedley Corner dower-house with Beatrice presiding 
over an inefficient nurse, Lady Osprey very pink and 
shocked in the background, and my aunt jealously 

My injuries were much more showy than serious, 
and I could have been taken to Lady Grove next day, 
but Beatrice would not permit that, and kept me at 
Bedley Corner three clear days. In the afternoon of 
the second day she became extremely solicitous for the 
proper aeration of the nurse, packed her off for an hour 
in a brisk rain, and sat by me alone. 

I asked her to marry me. 

On the whole I must admit it was not a situation 
that lent itself to eloquence. I lay on my back and talked 
through bandages and with some little difficulty, for 
my tongue and mouth had swollen. But I was feverish 
and in pain, and the emotional suspense I had been in 
so long with regard to her, became now an unendurable 

" Comfortable ? " she asked. 



"Shall I read to you?" 

" No. I want to talk. 1 ' 

" You can't. I'd better talk to you." 

" No," I said, " I want to talk to you." 

She came and stood by my bedside and looked 
me in the eyes. " I don't — I don't want you to talk to 
me," she said. " I thought you couldn't talk." 

" I get few chances — of you." 

" You'd better not talk. Don't talk now. Let me 
chatter instead. You ought not to talk." 

" It isn't much," I said. 

" I'd rather you didn't." 

" I'm not going to be disfigured," I- said. " Only 

a scar." 


Oh ! " she said, as if she had expected something 
quite different. " Did you think you'd become a sort 
of gargoyle ? " 

"L'Homme qui Hit !— I didn't know. But that's 
all right. Jolly flowers those are ! " 

"Michaelmas daisies," she said. "I'm glad you're 
not disfigured. And those are perennial sunflowers. 
Do you know no flowers at all ? When I saw you on 
the ground I certainly thought you were dead. You 
ought to have been, by all the rules of the game." 

She said some other things, but I was thinking of 
my next move. 

"Are we social equals ?" I said abruptly. 

She stared at me. " Queer question," she said. 

" But are we ? " 

" H'm. Difficult to say. But why do you ask ? Is 
the daughter of a courtesy Baron who died — of general 
disreputableness, I believe — before his father — — ? I 
give it up. Does it matter ?" 



" No. My mind is confused. I want to know if 
you will marry me." 

She whitened and said nothing. I suddenly felt 
I must plead with her. " Damn these bandages ! " I 
said, breaking into ineffectual febrile rage. 

She roused herself to her duties as nurse. " What 
are you doing ? Why are you trying to sit up ? Lie 
down ! Don't touch your bandages. I told you not 
to talk." 

She stood helpless for a moment, then took me 
firmly by the shoulders and pushed me back upon the 
pillow. She gripped the wrist of the hand I had raised 
to my face. " I told you not to talk," she whispered 
close to my face. " I asked you not to talk. Why 
couldn't you do as I asked you ? " 

" You've been avoiding me for a month," I said. 

" I know. You might have known. Put your hand 
back — down by your side." 

I obeyed. She sat on the edge of the bed. A 
flush had come to her cheeks, and her eyes were very 
bright. " I asked you," she repeated, " not to talk." 

My eyes questioned her mutely. 

She put her hand on my chest. Her eyes were 
tormented. " How can I answer you now ? " she said. 
" How can I say anything now ? " 

" What do you mean ? " I asked. 

She made no answer. 

" Do you mean it must be No ? " 

She nodded. 

" But ," I said, and my whole soul was full of 


" I know," she said. " I can't explain. I cant. 
But it has to be No ! It can't be. It's utterly, finally, 
for ever impossible. . . . Keep your hands still ! " 


" But,'" I said, " when we met again " 

" I can't marry. I can't and won't." 

She stood up. "Why did you talk?" she cried. 
"Couldn't you see?" 

She seemed to have something it was impossible to say. 

She came to the table beside my bed and pulled 
the Michaelmas daisies awry. " Why did }ou talk like 
that ? " she said in a tone of infinite bitterness. " To 
begin like that ! " 

" But what is it ? " I said. " Is it some circum- 
stance — my social position ? " 

" Oh damn your social position ! " she cried. 

She went and stood at the further window staring 
out at the rain. For a long time we were absolutely 
still. The wind and rain came in little gusts upon the 
pane. She turned to me abruptly. 

" You didn't ask me if I loved you," she said. 

" Oh, if it's that ! " said I. 

" It's not that," she said. " But if you want to 
know " She paused. 

" I do," she said. 

We stared at one another. 

" I do — with all my heart, if you want to know." 

" Then why the devil ? " I asked. 

She made no answer. She walked across the room 
to the piano and began to play, rather noisily and 
rapidly, with odd gusts of emphasis, the shepherd's pipe 
music from the last act in Tristan and Isolde. Presently 
she missed a note, failed again, ran her finger heavily 
up the scale, struck the piano passionately with her fist 
making a feeble jar in the treble, jumped up, and went 
out of the room. . . . 

The nurse found me still wearing my helmet of 
bandages, partially dressed and pottering round the 


room to find the rest of my clothes. I was in a state 
of exasperated hunger for Beatrice and I was too 
inflamed and weakened to conceal the state of my mind. 
I was feebly angry because of the irritation of dressing 
and particularly of the struggle to put on my trousers 
without being able to see my legs. I was staggering 
about, and once I had fallen over a chair, and I had 
upset the jar of Michaelmas daisies. 

I must have been a detestable spectacle. " 111 go 
back to bed, 11 said I, " if I may have a word with Miss 
Beatrice. I've got something to say to her. That's 
why I'm dressing. 11 

My point was conceded, but there were long delays. 
Whether the household had my ultimatum or whether 
she told Beatrice directly I do not know, and what Lady 
Osprey can have made of it in the former case I can't 
imagine. . . . 

At last Beatrice came and stood by my bedside. 
" Well ? " she said. 

" All I want to say, 11 1 said with the querulous note 
of a misunderstood child, " is that I can't take this as 
final. I want to see you and talk when I'm better — and 
write. I can't do anything now. I can't argue." 

I was overtaken with self-pity and began to snivel. 

" I can't rest. You see ? I can't do anything." 

She sat down beside me again and spoke softly. 
" I promise I will talk it all over with you again. 
When you are well. I promise I will meet you some- 
where so that we can talk. You can't talk now. I 
asked you not to talk now. All you want to know you 
shall know. . . . Will that do ? " 

" Fd like to know " 

She looked round to see the door was closed, stood 
up and went to it. 


Then she crouched beside me and began whispering 
very softly and rapidly with her face close to me. 

" Dear," she said, " I love you. If it will make you 
happy to marry me, I will marry you. I was in a mood 
just now — a stupid inconsiderate mood. Of course I 
will marry you. ' You are my prince, my king. Women 
are such things of mood — or I would have — behaved 
differently. We say 'No 1 when we mean 'Yes 1 — and 
fly into crises. So now, Yes — yes — yes. I will. ... I 
can't even kiss you. Give me your hand to kiss that. 
Understand I am yours. Do you understand ? I am 
yours just as if we had been married fifty years. Your 
wife — Beatrice. Is that enough ? Now — now will you 
rest ? " 

" Yes," 1 I said ; " but why ? " 

" There are complications. There are difficulties. 
When you are better you will be able to— understand 
them. But now they don't matter. Only you know 
this must be secret — for a time. Absolutely secret 
between us. Will you promise that ? " 

"Yes, 1 '' I said, " I understand. I wish I could kiss 

She laid her head down beside mine for a moment, 
and then she kissed my hand. 

" I don't care what difficulties there are," I said, and 
shut my eyes. 

But I was only beginning to gauge the unaccount- 
able elements in Beatrice. For a week after my return 
to Lady Grove I had no sign of her, and then she called 
with Lady Osprey and brought a huge bunch of perennial 
sunflowers and Michaelmas daisies, "just the old flowers 


there were in your room," said my aunt with a relentless 
eye on me. I didn't get any talk alone with Beatrice 
then and she took occasion to tell us she was going to 
London for some indefinite number of weeks. I 
couldn't even pledge her to write to me, and when she 
did it was a brief enigmatical friendly letter with not a 
word of the reality between us. 

I wrote back a love letter — my first love letter — and 
she made no reply for eight days. Then came a scrawl : 
" I can't write letters. Wait till we can talk. Are you 
better ?" . . . 

I think the reader would be amused if he could 
see the papers on my desk as I write all this, the mangled 
and disfigured pages, the experimental arrangements of 
notes, the sheets of suggestions balanced in constella- 
tions, the blottesque intellectual battlegrounds over 
which I have been fighting. I find this account of my 
relations to Beatrice quite the most difficult part of 
my story to write. I happen to be a very objective- 
minded person, I forget my moods and this was so 
much an affair of moods. And even such moods and 
emotions as I recall are very difficult to convey. To 
me it is about as difficult as describing a taste or a 

Then the objective story is made up of little things 
that are difficult to set in a proper order. And love is 
an hysterical passion, now high, now low, now exalted, 
and now intensely physical. No one has ever yet dared 
to tell a love story completely, its alternations, its 
comings and goings, its debased moments, its hate. The 
love stories we tell, tell only the net consequence, the 
ruling effect. . . . 

How can I rescue from the past now the mystical 
quality of Beatrice ; my intense longing for her ; the 


overwhelming, irrational, formless desire ? How can I 
explain how intimately that worship mingled with a 
high impatient resolve to make her mine, to take her 
by strength and courage, to do my loving in a violent 
heroic manner? And then the doubts, the puzzled 
arrest at the fact of her fluctuations, at her refusal to 
marry me, at the fact that even when at last she returned 
to Bedley Corner she seemed to evade me ? 

That exasperated me and perplexed me beyond 
measure. I felt that it was treachery. I thought of 
every conceivable explanation, and the most exalted 
and romantic confidence in her did not simply alternate 
but mingled with the basest misgivings. 

And into the tangle of memories comes the figure of 
Carnaby, coming out slowly from the background to a 
position of significance, as an influence, as a predomi- 
nant strand in the nets that kept us apart, as a rival. 
What were the forces that pulled her away from me 
when it was so clearly manifest she loved me ? Did 
she think of marrying him ? Had I invaded some 
long planned scheme ? It was evident he did not 
like me, that in some way I spoilt the world for him. 
She returned to Bedley Corner, and for some weeks she 
was flitting about me, and never once could I have talk 
with her alone. When she came to my sheds Carnaby 
was always with her, jealously observant. (Why the 
devil couldn't she send him about his business ?) The 
days slipped by and my anger gathered. 

All this mingles with the making of Lord Roberts 
(5. I had resolved upon that one night as I lay awake 
at Bedley Corner, I got it planned out before the 
bandages were off my face. I conceived this second 
navigable balloon in a grandiose manner. It was to be 
a second Lord Roberts a only more so ; it was to be 


three times as big, large enough to carry three men, 
and it was to be an altogether triumphant vindication 
of my claims upon the air. The framework was to be 
hollow like a bird's bones, airtight, and the air pumped 
in or out as the weight of fuel I carried changed. I 
talked much and boasted to Cothope — whom I suspected 
of scepticisms about this new type — of what it would 
do, and it progressed — slowly. It progressed slowly 
because I was restless and uncertain. At times I would 
go away to London to snatch some chance of seeing 
Beatrice there, at times nothing but a day of gliding 
and hard and dangerous exercise would satisfy me. 
And now in the newspapers, in conversation, in every- 
thing about me, arose a new invader of my mental 
states. Something was happening to the great schemes 
of my uncle's affairs ; people were beginning to doubt, 
to question. It was the first quiver of his tremendous 
insecurity, the first wobble of that gigantic credit top he 
had kept spinning so long. 

There were comings and goings, November and 
December slipped by. I had two unsatisfactory meetings 
with Beatrice, meetings that had no privacy — in which 
we said things of the sort that need atmosphere, 
baldly and furtively. I wrote to her several times and 
she wrote back notes that I would sometimes respond to 
altogether, sometimes condemn as insincere evasions. 
" You don't understand. I can't just now explain. Be 
patient with me. Leave things a little while to me." 
So she wrote. 

I would talk aloud to these notes and wrangle over 
them in my work-room — while the plans of Lord 
Roberts /3 waited. 

" You don't give me a chance ! " I would say. 
Why don't you let me know the secret ? That's 



what I'm for — to settle difficulties ! — to tell difficulties 

And at last I could hold out no longer against these 
accumulating pressures. 

I took an arrogant, outrageous line that left her no 
loop-holes ; I behaved as though we were living in a 

" You must come and talk to me, 11 I wrote, " or 
I will come and take } T ou. I want you — and the time 
runs away." 

We met in a ride in the upper plantations. It 
must have been early in January, for there was snow 
on the ground and on the branches of the trees. We 
walked to and fro for an hour or more, and from the 
first I pitched the key high in romance and made under- 
standings impossible. It was our worst time together. 
I boasted like an actor, and she, I know not why, was 
tired and spiritless. 

Now I think over that talk in the light of all that 
has happened since, I can imagine how she came to me 
full of a human appeal I was too foolish to let her make. 
I don't know. I confess I have never completely under- 
stood Beatrice. I confess I am still perplexed at many 
things she said and did. That afternoon anvhow I was 
impossible. I posed and scolded. I was — I said it — for 
"taking the Universe by the throat !" 

"If it was only that," she said, but though I heard 
I did not heed her. 

At last she gave way to me and talked no more. 
Instead she looked at me — as a thing beyond her 
controlling but none the less interesting — much as she 
had looked at me from behind the skirts of Lady Drew 
in the Warren when we were children together. Once 
even I thought she smiled faintly. 


" What are the difficulties ? " I cried. " There's no 
difficulty I will not overcome for you ! Do your people 
think I'm no equal for you ? Who says it ? My dear, 
tell me to win a title ! Ill do it in five years ! . . . 

" Here am I just grown a man at the sight of you. 
I have wanted something to fight for. Let me fight 
for you ! . . . 

"Fm rich without intending it. Let me mean it, 
give me an honourable excuse for it, and 111 put all 
this rotten old warren of England at your feet ! " 

I said such things as that. I write them down here 
in all their resounding base pride. I said these empty 
and foolish things and they are part of me. Why 
should I still cling to pride and be ashamed. I shouted 
her down. 

I passed from such megalomania to petty accusations. 

"You think. Carnaby is a better man than I? 11 
I said. 

" No ! " she cried, stung to speech ; " No ! " 

" You think we're unsubstantial. You've listened 
to all these rumours Boom has started because we 
talked of a newspaper of our own. When you are with 
me you know I'm a man ; when you get away from me 
you think Fm a cheat and a cad. . . . There's not a 
word of truth in the things they say about us. I've 
been slack. I've left things. But we have onlv to 
exert ourselves. You do not know how wide and far 
we have spread our nets. Even now we have a coup 
— an expedition — in hand. It will put us on a 
footing." . . . 

Her eyes asked mutely and asked in vain that I 
would cease to boast of the very qualities she admired 
in me. 

In the night I could not sleep for thinking of that 


talk and the vulgar things I had said in it. I could 
not understand the drift my mind had taken. I was 
acutely disgusted. And my unwonted doubts about 
myself spread from a merely personal discontent to our 
financial position. It was all very well to talk as I had 
done of wealth and power and peerages, but what did 
I know nowadays of my uncle's position ? Suppose in 
the midst of such boasting; and confidence there came 
some turn I did not suspect, some rottenness he had 
concealed from me ! I resolved I had been playing 
with aeronautics long enough, that next morning I 
would go to him and have things clear between us. 

I caught an early train and went up to the 

I went up to the Hardingham through a dense 
London fog to see how things really stood. Before 
I had talked to my uncle for ten minutes I felt like a 
man who has just awakened in a bleak inhospitable 
room out of a grandiose dream. 

2 c 


how i stole the heaps of quap from 
Mordet Island 

§ 1 

" We got to make a fight for it," said my uncle. " We 
got to face the music ! " 

I remember that even at the sight of him I had 
a sense of impending calamity. He sat under the 
electric light with the shadow of his hair making bars 
down his face. He looked shrunken and as though his 
skin had suddenly got loose and yellow. The decora- 
tions of the room seemed to have lost freshness, and 
outside — the blinds were up — there was not so much 
fog as a dun darkness. One saw the dingy outlines 
of the chimneys opposite quite distinctly, and then a 
sky of such a brown as only London can display. 

" I saw a placard,' 1 '' I said ; " ' More Ponderevity. 1 ' 

" That's Boom, 11 he said. " Boom and his damned 
newspapers. He's trying to fight me down. Ever 
since I offered to buy the Daily Decorator he's been at 
me. And he thinks consolidating Do Ut cut down the 
ads. He wants everything, damn him ! He's got no 
sense of dealing. I'd like to bash his face ! " 

" W T ell," I said ; " what's to be done ? " 

" Keep going, 1 ' said my uncle. 



"Til smash Boom yet, 11 he said with sudden 

"Nothing else? 11 I asked. 

" We got to keep going. There's a scare on. Did 
you notice the rooms ? Half the people out there this 
morning are reporters. And if I talk they touch it 
up ! . . . They didn't used to touch things up ! Now 
they put in character touches — insulting you. Don't 
know what journalism's coming to. It's all Boom's 

He cursed Lord Boom with considerable imaginative 

" Well,' 1 said I, " what can he do ? " 

" Shove us up against time, George ; make money 
tight for us. We been handling a lot of money — and 
he tightens us up. 11 

" We're sound ? " 

" Oh, we're sound, George. Trust me for that ! 

But all the same There's such a lot of imagination 

in these things. . . . We're sound enough. That's 
not it." 1 

He blew. " Damn Boom ! 11 he said, and his eyes 
over his glasses met mine defiantly. 

" We can't, I suppose, run close hauled for a bit — 
stop expenditure ? " 

« Where ? " 

"Well— Crest Hill. 11 

" What ! " he shouted. " Me stop Crest Hill for 
Boom ! "" He waved a fist as if to hit his inkpot and 
controlled himself with difficulty. He spoke at last in 
a reasonable voice. " If I did, 11 he said, " he'd kick up 
a fuss. It's no good even if I wanted to. Everybody's 
watching the place. If I was to stop building we'd 
be down in a week. 11 


He had an idea. "I wish I could do something 
to start a strike or something. No such luck. Treat 
those workmen a sight too well. No, sink or swim, 
Crest Hill goes on until we're under water." 

I began to ask questions and irritated him instantly. 

" Oh, dash these explanations, George ! " he cried ; 
"you only make things look rottener than they are. 
It's your way. It isn't a case of figures. We're all 
right — there's only one thing we got to do." 


"Show value, George. That's where this quap 
comes in ; that's why I fell in so readily with what 
you brought to me week before last. Here we are, we 
got our option on the perfect filament, and all we 
want's canadium. Nobody knows there's more canadium 
in the world than will go on the edge of a sixpence 
except me and you. Nobody has an idee the perfect 
filament's more than just a bit of theorising. Fifty 
tons of quap and we'd turn that bit of theorising into 

somethin' . We'd make the lamp trade sit on its 

tail and howl. We'd put Ediswan and all of 'em into 
a, parcel with our last year's trousers and a hat, and 
swap 'em off for a pot of geraniums. See ? We'd do 
it through Business Organizations, and there you are ! 
See ? Capern's Patent Filament ! The Ideal and the 
Real ! George, we'll do it ! We'll bring it off! And 
then we'll give such a facer to Boom : he'll think for 
fifty years. He's laying up for our London and African 
meeting. Let him. He can turn the whole paper on 
to us. He says the Business Organizations shares aren't 
worth fifty-two — and we quote 'em at eighty-four. 
Well, here we are. Gettin' ready for him — loading 
our gun." 

His pose was triumphant. 


" Yes," I said, " that's all right. Bat I can t help 
thinking where should we be if we hadn't just by 
accident got Capern's Perfect Filament. Because, you 
know it was an accident — my buying up that." 

He crumpled up his nose into an expression of 
impatient distaste at my unreasonableness. 

" And after all, the meeting's in June, and you 
haven't begun to get the quap ! After all, we've still 
got to load our gun " 

" They start on Toosday." 

" Have they got the brig ? " 

" They've got a brig." 

"Gordon-Nasmyth !" I doubted. 

" Safe as a bank," he said. " More I see of that 
man the more I like him. All I wish is we'd got a 
steamer instead of a sailing ship " 

" And," I went on, " you seem to overlook what 
used to weigh with us a bit. This canadium side of 
the business and the Capern chance has rushed you oft' 
your legs. After all — it's stealing, and in its way an 
international outrage. They've got two gunboats on 
the coast." 

I jumped up and went and stared out at the fog. 

"And, by Jove, it's about our only chance ! . . . I 
didn't dream." 

I turned on him. " I've been up in the air," I said. 
" Heaven knows where I haven't been. And here's our 
only chance — and you give it to that adventurous 
lunatic to play in his own way — in a brig ! " 

" Well, you had a voice " 

" I wish I'd been in this before. We ought to have 
run out a steamer to Lagos or one of those West Coast 
places and done it from there. Fancy a brig in the 
Channel at this time of year, if it blows south-west ! " 


" I dessay you'd have shoved it, George. Still 

You know, George. ... I believe in him." 

" Yes," I said. " Yes, I believe in him too. In a 
way. Still " 

He took up a telegram that was lying on his desk 
and opened it. His face became a livid yellow. He 
put the flimsy pink paper down with a slow reluctant 
movement and took off his glasses. 

" George," he said, " the luck's against us." 

" What ? " 

He grimaced with his mouth in the queerest way at 
the telegram. 

" That." 

I took it up and read : — 

" motor smash compound fracture of the leg gordon 
naismith what price mordet now " 

For a moment neither of us spoke. 

"That's all right," I said at last. 

" Eh ? " said my uncle. 

" Fm going. Ill get that quap or bust." 

§ 2 

I had a ridiculous persuasion that I was "saving 
the situation." 

" I'm going," I said quite consciously and dramati- 
cally. I saw the whole affair — how shall I put it? — 
in American colours. 

I sat down beside him. "Give me all the data 
you've got," I said, " and I'll pull this thing off." 

" But nobody knows exactly where " 

" Nasmy th does, and he'll tell me." 

" He's been very close," said my uncle, and re- 
garded me. 


" He'll tell me all right now he's smashed." 

He thought. " I believe he will. 

" George," he said, " if you pull this thing ofif- 

Once or twice before you've stepped in — with that sort 
of Woosh of yours " 

He left the sentence unfinished. 

" Give me that note-book," I said, " and tell me all 
you know. Where's the ship ? Where's Pollack ? And 
where's that telegram from ? If that quap's to be got, 
I'll get it or bust. If you'll hold on here until I get 
back with it." . . . 

And so it was I jumped into the wildest adventure 
of my life. 

I requisitioned my uncle's best car forthwith. I 
went down that night to the place of dispatch named 
on Nasmyth's telegram, Bampton S.O. Oxon, routed 
him out with a little trouble from that centre, made 
things right with him and got his explicit directions ; 
and I was inspecting the Maud Mary with young 
Pollack, his cousin and aide, the following afternoon. 
She was rather a shock to me and not at all in my style, 
a beast of a brig inured to the potato trade, and she 
reeked from end to end with the faint subtle smell 
of raw potatoes so that it prevailed even over the 
temporary smell of new paint. She was a beast of a 
brig, all hold and dirty framework, and they had ballasted 
her with old iron and old rails and iron sleepers, and got 
a miscellaneous lot of spades and iron wheelbarrows 
against the loading of the quap. I thought her over 
with Pollack, one of those tall blond young men who 
smoke pipes and don't help much, and then by myself, 
and as a result I did my best to sweep Gravesend clean 
of wheeling planks, and got in as much cord and small 
rope as I could for lashing. I had an idea we might 


need to run up a jetty. In addition to much ballast 
she held remotely hidden in a sort of inadvertent way 
a certain number of ambiguous cases which I didn't 
examine, but which I gathered were a provision against 
the need of a trade. 

The captain was a most extraordinary creature, 
under the impression we were after copper ore ; he was 
a Roumanian Jew, with twitching excitable features, 
who had made his way to a certificate after some pre- 
liminary naval experiences in the Black Sea. The mate 
was an Essex man of impenetrable reserve. The crew 
were astoundingly ill-clad and destitute and dirty ; 
most of them youths, unwashed, out of colliers. One, 
the cook, was a mulatto ; and one, the best-built fellow 
of them all, was a Breton. There was some subterfuge 
about our position on board — I forget the particulars 
now — I was called the supercargo and Pollack was the 
steward. This added to the piratical flavour that 
insufficient funds and Gordon-Nasmyth's original genius 
had already given the enterprise. 

Those two days of bustle at Graveseud, under dingy 
skies, in narrow, dirty streets, was a new experience for 
me. It is like nothing else in my life. I realized that 
I was a modern and a civilized man. I found the food 
filthy and the coffee horrible ; the whole town stank in 
my nostrils, the landlord of the Good Intent on the 
(juay had a stand-up quarrel with us before I could get 
even a hot bath, and the bedroom I slept in was infested 
by a quantity of exotic but voracious flat parasites- 
called locally " bugs," in the walls, in the woodwork, 
everywhere. I fought them with insect powder, and 
found them comatose in the morning. I was dipping 
down into the dingy underworld of the contemporary 
state, and I liked it no better than I did my first dip 


into it when I stayed with my Uncle Nicodemus Frapp 
at the bakery at Chatham — where, by-the-by, we had to 
deal with cockroaches of a smaller, darker variety, and 
also with bugs of sorts. 

Let me confess that through all this time before we 
started I was immensely self-conscious, and that Beatrice 
played the part of audience in my imagination through- 
out. I was, as I say, " saving the situation," and I was 
acutely aware of that. The evening before we sailed, 
instead of revising our medicine-chest as I had intended, 
I took the car and ran across country to Lady Grove to 
tell my aunt of the journey I was making, dress, and 
astonish Lady Osprey by an after-dinner call. 

The two ladies were at home and alone beside a biff 
fire that seemed wonderfully cheerful after the winter 
night. I remember the effect of the little parlour in 
which they sat as very bright and domestic. Lady 
Osprey in a costume of mauve and lace sat on a chintz 
sofa and played an elaborately spread-out patience bv 
the light of a tall shaded lamp ; Beatrice in a white 
dress that showed her throat, smoked a cigarette in an 
armchair and read with a lamp at her elbow. The 
room was white-panelled and chintz-curtained. About 
those two bright centres of light were warm dark 
shadows in which a circular mirror shone like a pool of 
brown water. I carried off my raid by behaving like a 
slave of etiquette. There were moments when I think 
I really made Lady Osprey believe that my call was an 
unavoidable necessity, that it would have been negligent 
of me not to call just how and when I did. But at the 
best those were transitory moments. 

They received me with disciplined amazement. 
Lady Osprey was interested in my face and scrutinized 
the scar. Beatrice stood behind her solicitude. Our 


eyes met, and in hers I could see startled interroga- 

" I'm going," I said, " to the west coast of Africa." 
They asked questions, but it suited my mood to be 


"We've interests there. It is urgent I should jro. 
I don't know when I may return." 

After that I perceived Beatrice surveyed me 

The conversation was rather difficult I embarked 
upon lengthy thanks for their kindness to me after my 
accident. I tried to understand Lady Osprey's game of 
patience, but it didn't appear that Lady Osprey was 
anxious for me to understand her patience. I came to 
the verge of taking my leave. 

" You needn't go yet," said Beatrice, abruptly. 

She walked across to the piano, took a pile of music 
from the cabinet near, surveyed Lady Osprey's back, and 
with a gesture to me dropped it all deliberately on to 
the floor. 

" Must talk," she said, kneeling close to me as I 
helped her to pick it up. " Turn my pages. At the 

" I can't read music." 

" Turn my pages." 

Presently we were at the piano, and Beatrice was 
playing with noisy inaccuracy. She glanced over her 
shoulder and Lady Osprey had resumed her patience. 
The old lady was very pink, and appeared to be ab- 
sorbed in some attempt to cheat herself without our 
observing it. 

"Isn't West Africa a vile climate?" "Are you 
going to live there ? " " Why are you going ? " 

Beatrice asked these questions in a low voice and 


gave me no chance to answer. Then taking a rhythm 
from the music before her, she said — 

" At the back of the house is a garden — a door in 
the wall — on the lane. Understand ? " 

I turned over two pages without any effect on her 

" When ? " I asked. 

She dealt in chords. " I wish I could play this ! " 
she said. " Midnight. 11 

She gave her attention to the music for a time. 

" You may have to wait."" 

" Til wait." 

She brought her playing to an end by — as school- 
boys say — " stashing it up. 11 

" I can't play to-night, 11 she said, standing up and 
meeting my eyes. " I wanted to give you a parting 
voluntary. 11 

" Was that Wagner, Beatrice ? " asked Lady Osprey, 
looking up from her cards. "It sounded very con- 
fused." . . , 

I took my leave. I had a curious twinge of con- 
science as I parted from Lady Osprey. Either a first 
intimation of middle-age or my inexperience in romantic 
affairs was to blame, but I felt a very distinct objection 
to the prospect of invading this good lady's premises 
from the garden door. I motored up to the pavilion, 
found Cothope reading in bed, told him for the first 
time of West Africa, spent an hour with him in settling 
all the outstanding details of Lord Roberts /3, and 
left that in his hands to finish against my return. I 
sent the motor back to Lady Grove, and still wearing 
my fur coat — for the January night was damp and 
bitterly cold — walked back to Bedley Corner. I found 
the lane to the back of the dower-house without any 


difficulty, and was at the door in the wall with ten 
minutes to spare. I lit a cigar and fell to walking up 
and down. This queer flavour of intrigue, this nocturnal 
garden-door business, had taken me by surprise and 
changed my mental altitudes. I was startled out of my 
egotistical pose, and thinking intently of Beatrice, of 
that elfin quality in her that always pleased me, that 
always took me by surprise, that had made her for 
example so instantly conceive this meeting. 

She came within a minute of midnight; the door 
opened softly and she appeared, a short, grey figure in 
a motor-coat of sheepskin, bare-headed to the cold 
drizzle. She flitted up to me, and her eyes were 
shadows in her dusky face. 

" Why are you going to West Africa ? " she asked 
at once. 

" Business crisis. I have to go." 

" You're not going ? You're coming back ? " 

" Three or four months, 1 ' I said, " at most." 

" Then, it's nothing to do with me ? " 

" Nothing," I said. " Why should it have ? " 

" Oh, that's all right. One never knows what people 
think or what people fancy." She took me by the arm. 
" Let's go for a walk," she said. 

I looked about me at darkness and rain. 

" That's all right," she laughed. " We can go along 
the lane and into the Old Woking Road. Do you mind ? 
Of course you don't. My head. It doesn't matter. 
One never meets anybody." 

" How do you know ? " 

" I've wandered like this before. ... Of course ! 
Did you think" — she nodded her head back at her 
home—" that's all ? " 

" No, by Jove ! " I cried ; " it's manifest it isn't." 


She took my arm and turned me down the lane. 
" Night's my time," she said by my side. " There's a 
touch of the werewolf in my blood. One never knows 
in these old families. . . . I've wondered often. . . . 
Here we are, anyhow, alone in the world. Just darkness 
and cold and a sky of clouds and wet. And we — together. 
I like the wet on my face and hair, don't you ? When 
do you sail ? " 

I told her to-morrow. 

"Oh, well, there's no to-morrow now. You and 
I ! " She stopped and confronted me. 

" You don't say a word except to answer ! " 

"No," I said. " 

"Last time you did all the talking." 

"Like a fool. Now " 

We looked at each other's two dim faces. " You're 
glad to be here ? " 

"I'm glad — I'm beginning to be — it's more than 

She put her hands on my shoulders and drew me 
down to kiss her. 

"Ah !" she said, and for a moment or so we just 
clung to one another. 

"That's all," she said, releasing herself. "What 
bundles of clothes we are to-night. I felt we should 
kiss some day again. Always. The last time was 
ages ago." 

"Among the fern stalks." 

" Among the bracken. You remember. And your 
lips were cold. Were mine? The same lips — after 
so long — after so much ! . . . And now let's trudge 
through this biotted-out world together for a time. 
Yes, let me take your arm. Just trudge, see ? Hold 
tight to me because I know the way — and don't talk — 



don't talk. Unless you want to talk. . . . Let me 


tell you things ! You see, dear, the whole world is 
blotted out — it's dead and gone, and we're in this 
place. This dark wild place. . . . We're dead. Or all 
the world is dead. No ! We're dead. No one can see 
us. We're shadows. We've got out of our positions, 
out of our bodies — and together. That's the good thing 
of it — together. But that's why the Avorld can't see us 
and why we hardly see the world. Sssh ! Is it all right ? " 

" It's all right," I said. 

We stumbled along for a time in a close silence. 
We passed a dim-lit, rain-veiled window. 

" The silly world," she said, " the silly world ! It 
eats and sleeps. If the wet didn't patter so from the 
trees we'd hear it snoring. It's dreaming such stupid 
things — stupid judgments. It doesn't know we are 
passing, we two — free of it — clear of it. You and I ! " 

We pressed against each other reassuringly. 

" I'm glad we're dead," she whispered. " I'm glad 
we're dead. I was tired of it, dear. I was so tired 
of it, dear, and so entangled." 

She stopped abruptly. 

We splashed through a string of puddles. I began 
to remember things I had meant to say. 

" Look here ! " I cried. " I want to help you beyond 
measure. You are entangled. What is the trouble ? 
I asked you to marry me. You said you would. But 
there's something." 

My thoughts sounded clumsy as I said them. 

" Is it something about my position ? . . . Or is it 
something — perhaps — about some other man?" 

There was an immense assenting silence. 

" You've puzzled me so. At first — I mean quite 
early — I thought you meant to make me marry you." 


« I did/ 1 

" And then ? " 

" To-night," she said after a long pause, " I can't 
explain. No ! I can't explain. I love you ! But — 

explanations ! To-night My dear, here we are 

in the world alone — and the world doesn't matter. 
Nothing matters. Here am I in the cold with you — 

and my bed away there deserted. Fd tell you 

I ic'ill tell you when things enable me to tell you, and 

soon enough they will. But to-night I won't. 

I won't." 

She left my side and went in front of me. 

She turned upon me. " Look here," she said, " I 
insist upon your being dead. Do you understand? 
I'm not joking. To-night you and I are out of life. 
It's our time together. There may be other times, but 
this we won't spoil. We're — in Hades if you like. 
Where there's nothing to hide and nothing to tell. 
No bodies even. No bothers. We loved each other — 
down there — and were kept apart, but now it doesn't 
matter. It's over. ... If you won't agree to that — I 
will go home." 

" I wanted " I began, 

" I know. Oh ! my dear, if you'd only understand 
I understand. If you'd only not care — and love me 

" I do love you," I said. 

" Then love me," she answered, " and leave all these 
things that bother you. Love me I Here I am ! '■ 

"But " 

" No ! " she said. 

" Well, have your way." 

So she carried her point, and we wandered into the 
night together and Beatrice talked to me of love. . . . 


I'd never heard a woman before in all my life who 
could talk of love, who could lay bare and develop and 
touch with imagination all that mass of fine emotion 
every woman, it may be, hides. She had read of love, 
she had thought of love, a thousand sweet lyrics had 
sounded through her brain and left fine fragments in 
her memory ; she poured it out, all of it, shamelessly, 
skilfully, for me. I cannot give any sense of that talk, 
I cannot even tell how much of the delight of it was 
the magic of her voice, the glow of her near presence. 
And always we walked swathed warmly through a 
chilly air, along dim, interminable greasy roads — with 
never a soul abroad it seemed but us, never a beast in 
the fields. 

" Why do people love each other ? " I said. 

"Why not? 1 ' 

" But why do I love you ? Why is your voice 
better than any voice, your face sweeter than any 

" And why do I love you ? " she asked ; " not only 
what is fine in you, but what isn't ? Why do I love 
your dulness, your arrogance ? For I do. To-night 
I love the very raindrops on the fur of your coat ! v ' . . . 

So we talked ; and at last very wet, still glowing but 
a little tired, we parted at the garden door. We had 
been wandering for two hours in our strange irrational 
community of happiness, and all the world about us, 
and particularly Lady Osprey and her household, had 
been asleep — and dreaming of anything rather than 
Beatrice in the night and rain. 

She stood in the doorwav a muffled figure with eves 
that glowed. 

" Come back,' 1 she whispered. '* I shall wait for 



She hesitated. 

She touched the lapel of my coat. "I love you 
now,™ she said, and lifted her face to mine. 

I held her to me and was atremble from top to toe. 
«' O God ! " I cried. " And I must go ! " 

She slipped from my arms and paused regarding 
me. For an instant the world seemed full of fantastic 

" Yes, Go ! " she said, and vanished and slammed 
the door upon me, leaving me alone like a man new 
fallen from fairyland in the black darkness of the 

§ 3 

That expedition to Mordet Island stands apart 
from all the rest of my life, detached, a piece by itself 
with an atmosphere of its own. It would, I suppose, 
make a book by itself — it has made a fairly voluminous 
official report — but so far as this novel of mine goes 
it is merely an episode, a contributory experience, and 
I mean to keep it at that. 

Vile weather, an impatient fretting against unbear- 
able slowness and delay, sea-sickness, general discomfort 
and humiliating self-revelation are the master values 
of these memories. 

I was sick all through the journey out. I don't 
know why. It was the only time I was ever seasick, 
and I have seen some pretty bad weather since I became 
a boat-builder. But that phantom smell of potatoes 
was peculiarly vile to me. Coming back on the brig 
we were all ill, every one of us, so soon as we got to 
sea, poisoned I firmly believe by quap. On the way 
out most of the others recovered in a few days, but the 

2 D 


stuffiness below, the coarse food, the cramped dirty 
accommodation kept me, if not actually seasick, in a 
state of acute physical wretchedness the whole time. 
The ship abounded in cockroaches and more intimate 
vermin. I was cold all the time until after we passed 
Cape Verde, then I became steamily hot ; I had been 
too preoccupied with Beatrice and my keen desire to 
get the Maud Mary under way at once, to consider 
a proper wardrobe for myself, and in particular I lacked 
a coat. Heavens ! how I lacked that coat ! And, 
moreover, I was cooped up with two of the worst 
bores in Christendom, Pollack and the captain. 
Pollack, after conducting his illness in a style better 
adapted to the capacity of an opera house than a 
small compartment, suddenly got insupportably well 
and breezy, and produced a manly pipe in which he 
smoked a tobacco as blond as himself, and divided his 
time almost equally between smoking it and trying to 
clean it. " There's only three things you can clean 
a pipe with," he used to remark with a twist of paper 
in hand. "The best's a feather, the second's a straw, 
and the third's a girl's hairpin. I never see such a ship. 
You can't find any of 'em. Last time I came this way 
I did find hairpins anyway, and found 'em on the floor 
of the captain's cabin. Regular deposit. Eh? . . . 
Feelin' better?" 

At which I usually swore. 

"Oh, you'll be all right soon. Don't mind mv 
puffin' a bit ? Eh ? " 

He never tired of asking me to "have a hand at 
Nap. Good game. Makes you forget it, and that's 
half the battle." 

He would sit swaying with the rolling of the ship 
and suck at his pipe of blond tobacco and look with 


an inexpressibly sage but somnolent blue eye at the 
captain by the hour together. " Captain's a Card/' 
he would say over and over again as the outcome of 
these meditations. " He'd like to know what we're 
up to. He'd like to know — no end." 

That did seem to be the captain's ruling idea. But 
he also wanted to impress me with the notion that he 
was a gentleman of good family and to air a number of 
views adverse to the English, to English literature, 
to the English constitution, and the like. He had 
learnt the sea in the Roumanian navy, and English 
out of a book ; he would still at times pronounce the 
e's at the end of " there " and " here " ; he was a 
naturalized Englishman, and he drove me into a 
reluctant and uncongenial patriotism by his everlasting 
carping at things English. Pollack would set himself 
to " draw him out."" Heaven alone can tell how near 
I came to murder. 

Fifty-three days I had outward, cooped up with 
these two and a shy and profoundly depressed mate 
who read the Bible on Sundays and spent the rest of 
his leisure in lethargy, three and fifty days of life 
cooped up in a perpetual smell, in a persistent sick 
hunger that turned from the sight of food, in darkness, 
cold and wet, in a lightly ballasted ship that rolled 
and pitched and swayed. And all the time the sands 
in the hour-glass of my uncle's fortunes were streaming 
out. Misery ! Amidst it all I remember only one 
thing brightly, one morning of sunshine in the Bay 
of Biscay and a vision of frothing waves, sapphire green, 
a bird following our wake and our masts rolling about 
the sky. Then wind and rain close in on us again. 

You must not imagine they were ordinary days, 
days I mean of an average length ; they were not so 


much days as long damp slabs of time that stretched 
each one to the horizon, and much of that length was 
night. One paraded the staggering deck in a borrowed 
sou'-wester hour after hour in the chilly, windy, splashing 
and spitting darkness, or sat in the cabin, bored and 
ill, and looked at the faces of those inseparable com- 
panions by the help of a lamp that gave smell rather 
than light. Then one would see going up, up, up, and 
then sinking down, down, down, Pollack, extinct pipe 
in mouth, humorously observant, bringing his mind 
slowly to the seventy-seventh decision that the captain 
was a Card, while the words flowed from the latter in 
a nimble incessant flood. " Dis England eet is not a 
country aristocratic, no ! Eet is a glorified bourgeoisie ! 
Eet is plutocratic. In England dere is no aristocracy 
since de Wars of Roses. In the rest of Europe east of 
the Latins, yes ; in England, no. 

"Eet is all middle-class, youra England. Every- 
thing you look at, middle-class. Respectable ! Every- 
thing good — eet is, you say, shocking. Madame 
Grundy ! Eet is all limited and computing and self- 
seeking. Dat is why your art is so limited, youra 
fiction, your philosophia, why you are all so inartistic. 
You want nothing but profit ! What will pay ! What 
would yo\i ? " . . . 

He had all those violent adjuncts to speech we 
Western Europeans have abandoned, shruggings of the 
shoulders, waving of the arms, thrusting out of the face, 
wonderful grimaces and twiddlings of the hands under 
your nose until you wanted to hit them away. Day 
after day it went on, and I had to keep my anger to 
myself, to reserve myself for the time ahead when it 
would be necessary to see the quap was got aboard and 
stowed — knee deep in this man's astonishment. I knew 


he would make a thousand objections to all we had 
before us. He talked like a drugged man. It ran 
glibly over his tongue. And all the time one could 
see his seamanship fretting him, he was gnawed by 
responsibility, perpetually uneasy about the ship's 
position, perpetually imagining dangers. If a sea hit 
us exceptionally hard he , d be out of the cabin in an 
instant making an outcry of enquiries, and he was 
pursued by a dread of the hold, of ballast shifting, 
of insidious wicked leaks. As we drew near the African 
coast his fear of rocks and shoals became infectious. 

" I do not know dis coast,"" he used to say. " I 
cama hera because Gordon-Nasmyth was coming too. 
Den he does not come ! " 

" Fortunes of war," I said, and tried to think in vain if 
any motive but sheer haphazard could have guided Gor- 
don-Nasmyth in the choice of these two men. I think 
perhaps Gordon-Nasmyth had the artistic temperament 
and wanted contrasts, and also that the captain helped 
him to express his own malignant Anti-Britishism. 
He was indeed an exceptionally inefficient captain. 
On the whole I was glad I had come even at the 
eleventh hour to see to things. 

(The captain, by-the-by, did at last, out of sheer 
nervousness, get aground at the end of Mordefs Island, 
but we got off in an hour or so with a swell and a little 
hard work in the boat.) 

I suspected the mate of his opinion of the captain 
long before he expressed it. He was, I say, a taciturn 
man, but one day speech broke through him. He had 
been sitting at the table with his arms folded on it, 
musing drearily, pipe in mouth, and the voice of the 
captain drifted down from above. 

The mate lifted his heavy eyes to me and regarded 


me for a moment. Then he began to heave with the 
beginnings of speech. He disembarrassed himself of his 
pipe. I cowered with expectation. Speech was coming 
at last. Before he spoke he nodded reassuringly once 
or twice. 

"E " 

He moved his head strangely and mysteriously, but 
a child might have known he spoke of the captain. 

" E's a foreigner."" 

He regarded me doubtfully for a time, and at last 
decided for the sake of lucidity to clench the matter. 

" That's what E is— a Dago ! " 

He nodded like a man who gives a last tap to a 
nail, and I could see he considered his remark well and 
truly laid. His face, though still resolute, became as 
tranquil and uneventful as a huge hall after a public 
meeting has dispersed out of it, and finally he closed 
and locked it with his pipe. 

" Roumanian Jew, isnt he ? w I said. 

He nodded darkly and almost forbiddingly. 

More would have been too much. The thing was 
said. But from that time forth I knew I could depend 
upon him and that he and I were friends. It happens 
I never did have to depend upon him, but that does not 
affect our relationship. 

Forward the crew lived lives very much after the 
fashion of ours, more crowded, more cramped and dirty, 
wetter, steamier, more verminous. The coarse food 
they had was still not so coarse but that they did not 
think they were living "like fighting cocks." So far 
as I could make out they were all nearly destitute men, 
hardly any of them had a proper sea outfit, and what 
small possessions they had were a source of mutual 
distrust. And as we pitched and floundered southward 


they gambled and fought, were brutal to one another, 
argued and wrangled loudly, until we protested at the 
uproar. . . . 

There's no romance about the sea in a small sailing- 
ship as I saw it. The romance is in the mind of the 
landsman dreamer. These brigs and schooners and 
brigantines that still stand out from every little port 
are relics from an age of petty trade, as rotten and 
obsolescent as a Georgian house that has sunken into 
a slum. They are indeed just floating fragments of 
slum, much as icebergs are floating fragments of glacier. 
The civilized man who has learnt to wash, who has 
developed a sense of physical honour, of cleanly tem- 
perate feeding, of time, can endure them no more. 
They pass, and the clanking coal-wasting steamers will 
follow them, giving place to cleaner, finer things. . . . 

But so it was I made my voyage to Africa, and came 
at last into a world of steamy fogs and a hot smell of 
vegetable decay, and into sound and sight of surf and 
distant intermittent glimpses of the coast. I lived a 
strange concentrated life through all that time, such 
a life as a creature must do that has fallen in a well. All 
my former ways ceased, all my old vistas became memories. 

The situation I was saving was very small and 
distant now ; I felt its urgency no more. Beatrice and 
Lady Grove, my uncle and the Hardingham, my soaring 
in the air and my habitual wide vision of swift effectual 
things, became as remote as if they were in some world 
I had left for ever. . . . 

§ 4 

All these African memories stand by themselves. It 
was forme an expedition into the realms of undisciplined 


nature out of the world that is ruled by men, my 
first bout with that hot side of our mother that srives 
you the jungle — that cold side that gives you the 
air-eddy I was beginning to know passing well. They 
are memories woven upon a fabric of sunshine and heat 
and a constant warm smell of decay. They end in 
rain — such rain as I had never seen before, a vehement, 
a frantic downpouring of water, but our first slow 
passage through the channels behind Mordefs Island 
M'as in incandescent sunshine. 

There we go in my memory still, a blistered dirty 
ship with patched sails and a battered mermaid to 
present Maud Mary, sounding and taking thought 
between high banks of forest whose trees come out 
knee-deep at last in the water. There we go with a 
little breeze on our quarter, Mordet Island rounded 
and the quap it might be within a day of us. 

Here and there strange blossoms woke the dank 
intensities of green with a trumpet call of colour. 
Things crept among the jungle and peeped and dashed 
back rustling into stillness. Always in the sluggishly 
drifting, opaque water were eddyings and stirrings ; 
little rushes of bubbles came chuckling up light- 
heartedly from this or that submerged conflict and 
tragedy ; now and again were crocodiles like a stranded 
fleet of logs basking in the sun. Still it was by day, 
a dreary stillness broken only by insect sounds and the 
creaking and flapping of our progress, by the calling 
of the soundings and the captain's confused shouts; 
but in the night as we lay moored to a clump of trees 
the darkness brought a thousand swampy things to life 
and out of the forest came screamings and howlings, 
screamings and yells that made us glad to be afloat. 
And once we saw between the tree stems long blazing 


fires. We passed two or three villages landward and 
brown-black women and children came and stared at 
us and gesticulated, and once a man came out in a boat 
from a creek and hailed us in an unknown tongue ; and 
so at last we came to a great open place, a broad lake 
rimmed with a desolation of mud and bleached refuse 
and dead trees, free from crocodiles or water birds or 
sight or sound of any living thing, and saw far off, even 
as Nasmyth had described, the ruins of the deserted 
station and hard by two little heaps of buff-hued 
rubbish under a great rib of rock, the quap ! The 
forest receded. The land to the right of us fell away 
and became barren, and far off across a notch in its 
backbone was surf and the sea. 

We took the ship in towards those heaps and the 
ruined jetty slowly and carefully. The captain came 
and talked. 

" This is eet ? " he said. 

« Yes," said I. 

" Is eet for trade we have come ? " 

This was ironical. 

" No, 11 said I. . . . 

" Gordon-Nasmy th would haf told me long ago 
what it ees for we haf come." 

" Til tell you now," I said. " We are going to lay 
in as close as we can to those two heaps of stuff — you 
see them? — under the rock. Then we are going to 
chuck all our ballast overboard and take those in. 
Then we're going home." 

" May I presume to ask — is eet gold ? " 

« No," I said incivilly, " it isn't." 

"Then what is it?" 

" It's stuff — of some commercial value." 

" We can't do eet," he said. 


" We can, 1 ' I answered reassuringly. 

" We can't," he said as confidently. " I don't mean 
what you mean. You know so liddle — But — Dis is 
forbidden country." 

I turned on him suddenly angry and met bright 
excited eyes. For a minute we scrutinized one another. 
Then I said, "That's our risk. Trade is forbidden. 
But this isn't trade. . . . This thing's got to be done." 

His eyes glittered and he shook his head. . . . 

The brig stood in slowly through the twilight 
towards this strange scorched and blistered stretch of 
beach, and the man at the wheel strained his ears to 
listen to the low-voiced angry argument that began 
between myself and the captain, that was presently 
joined by Pollack. We moored at last within a 
hundred yards of our goal and all through our dinner 
and far into the night we argued intermittently and 
fiercely with the captain about our right to load just 
what we pleased. " I will haf nothing to do with it," 
he persisted. "I wash my hands." It seemed that 
night as though we argued in vain. "If it is not 
trade," he said, "it is prospecting and mining. That 
is worse. Any one who knows anything — outside 
England — knows that is worse." 

We argued and I lost my temper and swore at him. 
Pollack kept cooler and chewed his pipe watchfully 
with that blue eye of his upon the captain's gestures. 
Finally I went on deck to cool. The sky was overcast. 
I discovered all the men were in a knot forward, staring 
at the faint quivering luminosity that had spread over 
the heaps of quap, a phosphorescence such as one sees 
at times on rotting wood. And about the beach east 
and west there were patches and streaks of something 
like diluted moonshine. , , . 


In the small hours I was still awake and turning 
over scheme after scheme in my mind whereby I might 
circumvent the captain's opposition. I meant to get 
that quap aboard if I had to kill some one to do it. 
Never in my life had I been so thwarted ! After this 
intolerable voyage ! There came a rap at my cabin 
door, and then it opened and I made out a bearded 
face. "Come in," I said, and a black voluble figure 
I could just see obscurely came in to talk in my private 
ear and fill my cabin with its whisperings and gestures. 
It was the captain. He too had been awake and 
thinking things over. He had come to explain — 
enormously. I lay there hating him and wondering 
if I and Pollack could lock him in his cabin and run 
the ship without him. "I do not want to spoil dis 
expedition, 1 '' emerged from a cloud of protestations, and 
then I was able to disentangle "a commission — shush 
a small commission — for special risks ! " " Special 
risks " became frequent. I let him explain himself out. 
It appeared he was also demanding an apology for 
something I had said. No doubt I had insulted him 
generously. At last came definite offers. I broke my 
silence and bargained. 

"Pollack!" I cried and hammered the partition. 

" What's up ? " asked Pollack. 

I stated the case concisely. 

There came a silence. 

"He's a Card," said Pollack. "Let's give him his 
commission. I don't mind." 

"Eh?" I cried. 

"I said he was a Card, that's all," said Pollack. 
" I'm coming." 

He appeared in my doorway a faint white figure 
and joined our vehement whisperings. . . . 


We had to buy the captain off; we had to promise 
him ten per cent, of our problematical profits. We 
were to give him ten per cent, on what we sold the 
cargo for over and above his legitimate pay, and I 
found in my out-bargained and disordered state small 
consolation in the thought that I, as the Gordon- 
Nasmyth expedition, was to sell the stuff to myself as 
Business Organizations. And he further exasperated 
me by insisting on having our bargain in writing. " In 
the form of a letter,'" he insisted. 

" All right,"" I acquiesced, " in the form of a letter. 
Here goes ! Get a light ! " 

" And the apology," he said folding up the letter. 

" All right, 11 I said ; " apology. 1 '' 

My hand shook with anger as I wrote and after- 
wards I could not sleep for hate of him. At last I got 
up. I suffered, I found, from an unusual clumsiness. 
I struck my toe against my cabin door, and cut 
myself as I shaved. I found myself at last pacing the 
deck under the dawn in a mood of extreme exaspera- 
tion. The sun rose abruptly and splashed light 
blindingly into my eyes and I swore at the sun. I 
found myself imagining fresh obstacles with the men 
and talking aloud in anticipatory rehearsal of the 
consequent row. 

The malaria of the quap was already in my blood. 

Sooner or later the ridiculous embargo that now 
lies upon all the coast eastward of Mordet Island will 
be lifted and the reality of the deposits of quap 
ascertained. I am sure myself that we were merely 
taking the outcrop of a stratum of nodulated deposits 



that dip steeply seaward. Those heaps were merely 
the crumbled out contents of two irregular cavities in 
the rock, they are as natural as any talus or heap of 
that kind, and the mud along the edge of the water 
for miles is mixed with quap, and is radio-active and 
lifeless and faintly phosphorescent at night. But the 
reader will find the full particulars of my impression 
of all this in the Geological Magazine for October, 1905, 
and to that I must refer him. There too he will find 
my unconfirmed theories of its nature. If I am right 
it is something far more significant from the scientific 
point of view than those incidental constituents of 
various rare metals, pitchblende, rutile, and the like, 
upon which the revolutionary discoveries of the last 
decade are based. Those are just little molecular 
centres of disintegration, of that mysterious decay and 
rotting of those elements, elements once regarded as 
the most stable things in nature. But there is some- 
thing — the only word that comes near it is cancerous — 
and that is not very near, about the whole of quap, 
something that creeps and lives as a disease lives by 
destroying ; an elemental stirring~and disarrangement, 
incalculably maleficent and strange. 

This is no imaginative comparison of mine. To 
my mind radio-activity is a real disease of matter. 
Moreover it is a contagious disease. It spreads. You 
bring those debased and crumbling atoms near others 
and those too presently catch the trick of swinging 
themselves out of coherent existence. It is in matter 
exactly what the decay of our old culture is in society, 
a loss of traditions and distinctions and assured reactions. 
When I think of these inexplicable dissolvent centres 
that have come into being in our globe — these quap 
heaps are surely by far the largest that have yet been 


found in the world; the rest as yet mere specks in 
grains and crystals — I am haunted by a grotesque fancy 
of the ultimate eating away and dry-rotting and dis- 
persal of all our world. So that while man still 
struggles and dreams his very substance will change 
and crumble from beneath him. I mention this here 
as a queer persistent fancy. Suppose indeed that is to 
be the end of our planet; no splendid climax and 
finale, no towering accumulation of achievements but 
just — atomic decay ! I add that to the ideas of the 
suffocating comet, the dark body out of space, the 
burning out of the sun, the distorted orbit, as a new 
and far more possible end — as Science can see ends — to 
this strange by-play of matter that we call human life. 
I do not believe this can be the end ; no human soul 
can believe in such an end and go on living, but to it 
science points as a possible thing, science and reason 
alike. If single human beings— if one single ricketv 
infant — can be born as it were by accident and die 
futile, why not the whole race ? These are questions 
I have never answered, that now I never attempt to 
answer, but the thought of quap and its mysteries 
brings them back to me. 

I can witness that the beach and mud for two miles 
or more either way was a lifeless beach— lifeless as 
I could have imagined no tropical mud could ever be, 
and all the dead branches and leaves and rotting dead 
fish and so forth that drifted ashore became presently 
shrivelled and white. Sometimes crocodiles would come 
up out of the water and bask, and now and then water 
birds would explore the mud and rocky ribs that rose 
out of it, in a mood of transitory speculation. That 
was its utmost animation. And the air felt at once 
hot and austere, dry and blistering, and altogether 


different to the warm moist embrace that had met us 
at our first African landfall and to which we had crown 

I believe that the primary influence of the quap 
upon us was to increase the conductivity of our nerves, 
but that is a mere unjustifiable speculation on my part. 
At any rate it gave a sort of east wind effect to life. 
We all became irritable, clumsy, languid and disposed 
to be impatient with our languor. We moored the 
brig to the rocks with difficulty, and got aground on 
mud, and decided to stick there and tow off when we 
had done — the bottom was as greasy as butter. Our 
efforts to fix up planks and sleepers in order to wheel 
the quap aboard were as ill conceived as that sort of 
work can be — and that sort of work can at times be 
very ill conceived. The captain had a superstitious 
fear of his hold; he became wildly gesticulatory and 
expository and incompetent at the bare thought of it. 
His shouts still echo in my memory, becoming as each 
crisis approached less and less like any known tongue. 

But I cannot now write the history of those days of 
blundering and toil, of how Milton, one of the boys, 
fell from a plank to the beach, thirty feet perhaps, 
with his barrow and broke his arm and I believe a rib, 
of how I and Pollack set the limb and nursed him 
through the fever that followed, of how one man after 
another succumbed to a feverish malaria, and how I — 
by virtue of my scientific reputation — was obliged to 
play the part of doctor and dose them with quinine, 
and then finding that worse than nothing, with rum 
and small doses of Easton's Syrup, of which there 
chanced to be a case of bottles aboard — Heaven and 
Gordon-Nasmyth know why. For three long days we 
lay in misery and never shipped a barrow-load. Then, 


when they resumed, the men's hands broke out into 
sores. There were no gloves available ; and I tried to 
get them, while they shovelled and wheeled, to cover 
their hands with stockings or greased rags. They 
would not do this on account of the heat and dis- 
comfort. This attempt of mine did however direct 
their attention to the quap as the source of their 
illness and precipitated what in the end finished our 
lading, an informal strike. " We've had enough of 
this, 11 they said, and they meant it. They came aft to 
say as much. They cowed the captain. 

Through all these days the weather was variously 
vile, first a furnace heat under a sky of a scowling 
intensity of blue, then a hot fog that stuck in one's 
throat like wool and turned the men on the planks 
into colourless figures of giants, then a wild burst of 
thunderstorms, mad elemental uproar andrain. Through 
it all against illness, heat, confusion of mind, one 
master impetus prevailed with me, to keep the shipping 
going, to maintain one motif at least, whatever else 
arose or ceased, the chuff of the spades, the squeaking 
and shriek of the barrows, the pluppa, pluppa, pluppa, 
as the men came trotting along the swinging high 
planks, and then at last, the dollop, dollop as the stuff 
shot into the hold. " Another barrow-load, thank 
God ! Another fifteen hundred, or it mav be two 
thousand pounds, for the saving of Ponderevo ! . . . ! " 

I found out many things about myself and humanity 
in those weeks of effort behind Mordet Island. I 
understand now the heart of the sweater, of the harsh 
employer, of the nigger-driver. I had brought these 
men into a danger they didn't understand, I was 
fiercely resolved to overcome their oppositions and 
bend and use them for my purpose, and I hated the 


men. But I hated all humanity during the time that 
the quap was near me. . . . 

And my mind was pervaded too by a sense of 
urgency and by the fear that we should be discovered 
and our proceedings stopped. I wanted to get out to 
sea again — to be beating up northward with our 
plunder. I was afraid our masts showed to seaward 
and might betray us to some curious passer on the 
high sea. And one evening near the end I saw a canoe 
with three natives far off down the lake ; I got field- 
glasses from the captain and scrutinized them, and I 
could see them staring at us. One man might have 
been a half-breed and was dressed in white. They 
watched us for some time very quietly and then 
paddled off into some channel in the forest shadows. 

And for three nights running, so that it took a 
painful grip upon my inflamed imagination, I dreamt 
of my uncle's face, only that it was ghastly white like 
a clown's, and the throat was cut from ear to ear — 
a long ochreous cut. " Too late," he said ; " too 
late ! . . . " 

§ 6 

A day or so after we had got to work upon the 
quap I found myself so sleepless and miserable that the 
ship became unendurable. Just before the rush of 
sunrise I borrowed Pollack's gun, walked down the 
planks, clambered over the quap heaps and prowled 
along the beach. I went perhaps a mile and a half 
that day and some distance beyond the ruins of the 
old station, I became interested in the desolation about 
me, and found when I returned that I was able to 
sleep for nearly an hour. It was delightful to have 

2 E 


been alone for so long, — no captain, no Pollack, no 
one. Accordingly I repeated this expedition the next 
morning and the next until it became a custom with 
me. There was little for me to do once the digging 
and wheeling was organized, and so these prowlings of 
mine grew longer and longer, and presently I began to 
take food with me. 

I pushed these walks far beyond the area desolated 
by the quap. On the edges of that was first a zone of 
stunted vegetation, then a sort of swampy jungle that 
was difficult to penetrate^ and then the beginnings of the 
forest, a scene of huge tree stems and tangled creeper 
ropes and roots mingled with oozy mud. Here I used 
to loaf in a state between botanizing and reverie — 
always very anxious to know what was up above in the 
sunlight — and here it was I murdered a man. 

It was the most unmeaning and purposeless murder 
imaginable. Even as I write down its well-remembered 
particulars there comes again the sense of its strange- 
ness, its pointlessness, its incompatibility with any of 
the neat and definite theories people hold about life 
and the meaning of the world. I did this thing and I 
want to tell of my doing it, but why I did it and 
particularly why I should be held responsible for it I 
cannot explain. 

That morning I had come 'upon a track in the 
forest and it had occurred to me as a disagreeable idea 
that this was a human pathway. I didn't want to come 
upon any human beings. The less our expedition saw 
of the African population the better for its prospects. 
Thus far we had been singularly free from native pester- 
ing. So I turned back and was making my way over 
mud and roots and dead fronds and petals scattered from 
the green world above when abruptly I saw my victim. 


I became aware of him perhaps forty feet off stand- 
ing quite still and regarding me. 

He wasn't by any means a pretty figure. He was 
very black and naked except for a dirty loin-cloth, his 
legs were ill-shaped and his toes spread wide, and the 
upper edge of his cloth and a girdle of string cut his 
clumsy abdomen into folds. His forehead was low, his 
nose very flat, and his lower lip swollen and purplish 
red. His hair was short and fuzzy, and about his neck 
was a string and a little purse of skin. He carried a 
musket, and a powder flask was stuck in his girdle. It 
was a curious confrontation. There opposed to him 
stood I, a little soiled perhaps, but still a rather 
elaborately civilized human - being born, bred and 
trained in a vague tradition. In my hand was an 
unaccustomed gun. And each of us was essentially a 
teeming vivid brain, tensely excited by the encounter, 
quite unaware of the other's mental content or what 
to do with him. 

He stepped back a pace or so. Stumbled and 
turned to run. 

" Stop, 11 I cried ; " stop you fool ! " and started to 
run after him shouting such things in English. But I 
was no match for him over the roots and mud. 

I had a preposterous idea. " He mustn't get away 
and tell them ! " 

And with that instantly I brought both feet 
together, raised my gun, aimed quite coolly, drew the 
trigger carefully and shot him neatly in the back. 

I saw, and saw with a leap of pure exaltation, the 
smash of my bullet between his shoulder blades. " Got 
him," said I, dropping my gun, and down he flopped 
and died without a groan. " By Jove," I cried with a 
note of surprise, " Fve killed him.", I looked about 

4 2o T0N0-BUNGAY 

me and then went forward cautiously in a mood between 
curiosity and astonishment to look at this man whose 
soul I had flung so unceremoniously out of our common 
world. I went to him not as one goes to something one 
has made or done, but as one approaches something found. 

He was frightfully smashed out in front ; he must 
have died in the instant. I stooped and raised him by 
his shoulder and realized that. I dropped him, and 
stood about and peered about me through the trees. 
" My word ! " I said. He was the second dead human 
being — apart I mean from surgical properties and 
mummies and common shows of that sort — that I had 
ever seen. I stood over him wondering, wondering 
beyond measure. 

A practical idea came into that confusion. Had 
any one heard the gun ? 

I reloaded. 

After a time I felt securer, and gave my mind 
again to the dead I had killed. What must I do ? 

It occurred to me that perhaps I ought to bury 
him. At any rate, I ought to hide him. I reflected 
coolly, and then put my gun within easy reach and 
dragged him by the arm towards a place where the 
mud seemed soft, and thrust him in. His powder-flask 
slipped from his loin-cloth, and I went back to get it. 
Then I pressed him down with the butt of my rifle. 

Afterwards this all seemed to me most horrible, 
but at the time it was entirely a matter-of-fact trans- 
action. I looked round for any other visible evidence 
of his fate, looked round as one does when one packs 
one's portmanteau in an hotel bedroom. 

Then I got my bearings, and carefully returned 
towards the ship. I had the mood of grave concentra- 
tion of a boy who has lapsed into poaching. And the 


business only began to assume proper proportions for 
me as I got near the ship, to seem any other kind of 
thing than the killing of a bird or rabbit. 

In the night, however, it took on enormous and 
portentous forms. " By God ! " I cried suddenly, start- 
ing wide awake ; " but it was murder ! " 

I lay after that wide awake, staring at my memories. 
In some odd way these visions mixed up with my dream 
of my uncle in his despair. The black body which I 
saw now damaged and partly buried, but which, never- 
theless, I no longer felt was dead but acutely alive and 
perceiving, I mixed up with the ochreous slash under 
my uncle's face. I tried to dismiss this horrible obses- 
sion from my mind, but it prevailed over all my efforts. 

The next day was utterly black with my sense of 
that ugly creature's body. I am the least superstitious 
of men, but it drew me. It drew me back into those 
thickets to the very place where I had hidden him. 

Some evil and detestable beast had been at him, 
and he lay disinterred. 

Methodically I buried his swollen and mangled 
carcass again, and returned to the ship for another 
night of dreams. Next day for all the morning I 
resisted the impulse to go to him, and played Nap with 
Pollack with my secret gnawing at me, and in the 
evening started to go and was near benighted. I 
never told a soul of them of this thing I had done. 

Next day I went early and he had gone, and there 
were human footmarks and ugly stains round the muddy 
hole from which he had been dragged. 

I returned to the ship, disconcerted and perplexed. 
That day it was the men came aft, with blistered hands 
and faces, and sullen eyes. When they proclaimed, 
through Edwards, their spokesman, " We've had enough 


of this, and we mean it," I answered very readily, "So 
have I. Let's go. 


We were none too soon. People had been recon- 
noitring us, the telegraph had been at work, and we 
were not four hours at sea before we ran against the 
gunboat that had been sent down the coast to look for 
us and that would have caught us behind the island 
like a beast in a trap. It was a night of driving cloud 
that gave intermittent gleams of moonlight, the wind 
and sea were strong and we were rolling along through 


a drift of rain and mist. Suddenly the world was white 
with moonshine. The gunboat came out as a long 
dark shape wallowing on the water to the east. She 
sighted the Maud Mary at once, and fired some sort 
of popgun to arrest us. 

The mate turned to me. 

" Shall I tell the captain ?" 

" The captain be damned ! 11 said I, and we let him 
sleep through two hours of chase till a rainstorm 
swallowed us up. Then we changed our course and 
sailed right across them, and by morning only her 
smoke was showing. 

We were clear of Africa — and with the booty 
aboard. I did not see what stood between us and 

For the first time since I had fallen sick in the 
Thames my spirits rose. I was seasick and physically 
disgusted of course, but I felt kindly in spite of my 
qualms. So far as I could calculate then the situation 
was saved. I saw myself returning triumphantly into 
the Thames, and nothing on earth to prevent old 


CapenVs Perfect Filament going on the market in a 
fortnight. I had the monopoly of electric lamps beneath 
my feet. 

I was released from the spell of that blood-stained 
black body all mixed up with grey-black mud. I was 
going back to baths and decent food and aeronautics 
and Beatrice. I was going back to Beatrice and my 
real life again — out of this well into which I had fallen. 
It would have needed something more than sea-sickness 
and quap fever to prevent my spirits rising. 

I told the captain that I agreed with him that the 
British were the scum of Europe, the westward drift of 
all the people, a disgusting rabble, and I lost three 
pounds by attenuated retail to Pollack at ha'penny nap 
and euchre. 

And then you know, as we got out into the Atlantic 
this side of Cape Verde, the ship began to go to pieces. 
I don't pretend for one moment to understand what 
happened. But I think GreifFenhagens recent work 
on the effects of radium upon ligneous tissue docs 
rather carry out my idea that emanations from quap 
have a rapid rotting effect upon woody fibre. 

From the first there had been a different feel about 
the ship, and as the big winds and waves began to 
strain her she commenced leaking. Soon she was leak- 
ing — not at any particular point, but everywhere. She 
did not spring a leak, I mean, but water came in first 
of all near the decaying edges of her planks, and then 
through them. 

I firmly believe the water came through the wood. 
First it began to ooze, then to trickle. It was like 
trying to carry moist sugar in a thin paper bag. Soon 
we were taking in water as though we had opened a 
door in her bottom. 


Once it began, the thing went ahead beyond all 
fighting. For a day or so we did our best, and I can 
still remember in my limbs and back the pumping — 
the fatigue in my arms and the memory of a clear 
little dribble of water that jerked as one pumped., and 
of knocking off and the being awakened to go on again, 
and of fatigue piling up upon fatigue. At last we 
ceased to think of anything but pumping ; one became 
a thing of torment enchanted, doomed to pump for 
ever. I still remember it as pure relief when at last 
Pollack came to me pipe in mouth. 

" The captain says the damned thing's going down 
right now," he remarked chewing his mouthpiece. 
" Eh ? " 

" Good idea ! " I said. " One cant go on pumping 
for ever. 11 

And without hurry or alacrity, sullenly and wearily 
we got into the boats and pulled away from the Maud 
Mary until we were clear of her, and then we stayed 
resting on our oars, motionless upon a glassy sea, wait- 
ing for her to sink. We were all silent, even the 
captain was silent until she went down. And then 
he spoke quite mildly in an undertone. 

"Dat is the first ship I haf ever lost. . . . And 
it was not a fair game ! It wass not a cargo any man 
should take. No ! " 

I stared at the slow eddies that circled above the 
departed Maud Mary, and the last chance of Business 
Organizations. I felt weary beyond emotion. I thought 
of my heroics to Beatrice and my uncle, of my prompt 
"Til go, 11 and of all the ineffectual months I had spent 
after this headlong decision. I was moved to laughter 
at myself and fate. 

But the captain and the men did not laugh. The 


men scowled at me and rubbed their sore and blistered 
bands, and set themselves to row. . . . 

As all the world knows, we were picked up by the 
Union Castle liner Portland Castle. 

The hairdresser aboard was a wonderful man, and he 
even improvised me a dress suit, and produced a clean 
shirt and warm underclothing. I had a hot bath, and 
dressed and dined and drank a bottle of Burgundy. 

" Now," I said, " are there any newspapers ? I want 
to know what's been happening in the world."" 

My steward gave me what he had, but I landed at 
Plymouth still largely ignorant of the course of events. 
I shook off Pollack, and left the captain and mate in 
an hotel, and the men in a Sailor's Home until I could 
send to pay them off", and I made my way to the station. 

The newspapers I bought, the placards I saw, all 
England indeed resounded to my uncle's bankruptcy. 




The Stick of the Rocket 

§ 1 

That evening I talked with my uncle in the Hardingham 
for the last time. The atmosphere of the place had 
altered quite shockingly. Instead of the crowd of 
importunate courtiers there were just half a dozen 
uninviting men, journalists waiting for an interview. 
Ropper the big commissionaire was still there, but now 
indeed he was defending my uncle from something 
more than time-wasting intrusions. I found the little 
man alone in the inner office pretending to work but 
really brooding. He was looking yellow and deflated. 

" Lord ! " he said at the sight of me. " You're 
lean, George. It makes that scar of yours show up. 11 

We regarded each other gravely for a time. 

" Quap," I said, " is at the bottom of the Atlantic. 

There's some bills . We've got to pay the 

men.'" . . . 

" Seen the papers ? " 

" Read 'em all in the train." 

" At bay,'" he said. " I been at bay for a week. . . . 

Yelping round me. . . . And me facing the music. 

I'm feelin 1 a bit tired. 11 



He blew and wiped his glasses. 

"My stomach isn't what it was, 11 he explained. 
"One finds it — these times. How did it all happen, 
George ? Your Marconigram — it took me in the wind 
a bit. 11 

I told him concisely. He nodded to the paragraphs 
of my narrative, and at the end he poured something 
from a medicine bottle into a sticky little wineglass 
and drank it. I became aware of the presence of 
drugs, of three or four small bottles before him among 
his disorder of papers, of a faint elusively familiar odour 
in the room. 

" Yes," he said, wiping his lips and recorking the 
bottle. " You've done your best, George. The luck's 
been against us. 11 

He reflected, bottle in hand. " Sometimes the 
luck goes with vou and sometimes it doesn't. Some- 
times it doesn't. And then where are you ? Grass 
in the oven ! Fight or no fight. 11 

He asked a few questions and then his thoughts 
came back to his own urgent affairs. I tried to get 
some comprehensive account of the situation from him, 
but he would not give it. 

" Oh, I wish I'd had you. I wish I'd had you, George. 
I've had a lot on my hands. You're clear headed at 
times. 11 

" What has happened ? " 

"Oh! Boom! — infernal things. 11 

" Yes, but — how ? I'm just off the sea, remember. 11 

"It'd worry me too much to tell you now. It's 
tied up in a skein. 11 

He muttered something to himself and mused 
darkly, and roused himself to say — ■ 

"Besides — you'd better keep out of it. It's getting 


tight. Get 'em talking. Go down to Crest Hill 
and fly. That's your affair." 

For a time his manner set free queer anxieties in 
my brain again. I will confess that that Mordet Island 
nightmare of mine returned, and as I looked at him his 
hand went out for the drug again. " Stomach, George," 
he said. 

"I been fightin' on that. Every man fights on 
something — gives way somewhere, — head, heart, liver 
— something. Zzzz. Gives way somewhere. Napoleon 
did at last. All through the Waterloo campaign, his 
stomach — it wasn't a stomach ! Worse than mine, no 

The mood of depression passed as the drug worked 
within him. His eyes brightened. He began to talk 
big. He began to dress up the situation for my eyes, 
to recover what he had admitted to me. He put it as 
a retreat from Russia. There were still the chances 
of Leipzig. 

" It's a battle, George— a big fight. We're fighting 
for millions. I've still chances. There's still a card or 
so. I can't tell all my plans — like speaking on the 

" You might," I began. 

" I can't, George. It's like asking to look at some 
embryo. You got to wait. I know. In a sort of 

way, I know. But to tell it No ! You been 

away so long. And everything's got complicated." 

My perception of disastrous entanglements deepened 
with the rise of his spirits. It was evident that I could 
only help to tie him up in whatever net was weaving 
round his mind by forcing questions and explanations 
upon him. My thoughts flew off at another angle. 
" How's Aunt Susan ? " said I. 


I had to repeat the question. His busy whispering 
lips stopped for a moment, and he answered in the note 
of one who repeats a formula. 

" She'd like to be in the battle with me. She'd 
like to be here in London. But there's corners I got 
to turn alone." His eye rested for a moment on the 
little bottle beside him. " And things have happened. 

" You might go down now and talk to her," he said, 
in a directer voice. " I shall be down to-morrow night, 
I think." 

He looked up as though he hoped that would end 
our talk. 

" For the week-end ? " I asked. 

"For the week-end. Thang God for week-ends, 
George ! " 

My return home to Lady Grove was a very different 
thing from what I had anticipated when I had got out 
to sea with my load of quap and fancied the Perfect 
Filament was safe within my grasp. As I walked 
through the evening light along the downs, the summer 
stillness seemed like the stillness of something newly 
dead. There were no lurking workmen any more, no 
cyclists on the high-road. 

Cessation was manifest everywhere. There had 
been, I learnt from my aunt, a touching and quite 
voluntary demonstration when the Crest Hill work had 
come to an end and the men had drawn their last pay ; 
they had cheered my uncle and hooted the contractors 
and Lord Boom. 

I cannot now recall the manner in which my aunt 
and I greeted one another. I must have been very 


tired then, but whatever impression was made has gone 
out of my memory. But I recall very clearly how we 
sat at the little round table near the big window that 
gave on the terrace, and dined and talked. I remember 
her talking of my uncle. 

She asked after him, and whether he seemed well. 
" I wish I could help," she said. " But I've never helped 
him much, never. His way of doing things was never 

mine. And since — since . Since he began to get 

so rich, he's kept things from me. In the old days— it 
was different. . . . 

" There he is — I don't know what he's doing. He 
won't have me near him. . . . 

"More's kept from me than anyone. The very 
servants won't let me know. They try and stop the 
worst of the papers — Boom's things — from coming 
upstairs. ... I suppose they've got him in a corner, 

" Poor old Teddy ! Poor old Adam and Eve we 
are ! Ficial Receivers with flaming swords to drive us 
out of our garden ! I'd hoped we'd never have another 
Trek. Well — anyway, it won't be Crest Hill. . . . 
But it's hard on Teddy. He must be in such a mess 
up there. Poor old chap. I suppose we can't help 
him. I suppose we'd only worry him. Have some 
more soup, George — while there is some ? . . . " 

The next day was one of those days of strong per- 
ception that stand out clear in one's memory when the 
common course of days is blurred. I can recall now 
the awakening in the large familiar room that was 
always kept for me, and how I lay staring at its chintz- 
covered chairs, its spaced fine furniture, its glimpse of 
the cedars without, and thought that all this had to end. 

I have never been greedy for money, I have never 

2 F 


wanted to be rich, but I felt now an immense sense of 
impending deprivation. I read the newspapers after 
breakfast — I and my aunt together — and then I walked 
up to see what Cothope had done in the matter of Lord 
Roberts /?. Never before had I appreciated so acutely 
the ample brightness of the Lady Grove gardens, the 
dignity and wide peace of all about me. It was one 
of those warm mornings in late May that have won 
all the glory of summer without losing the gay delicacy 
of spring. The shrubbery was bright with laburnum 
and lilac, the beds swarmed with daffodils and narcissi 
and with lilies of the valley in the shade. 

I went along the well-kept paths among the rhodo- 
dendra and through the private gate into the woods 
where the bluebells and common orchid were in pro- 
fusion. Never before had I tasted so completely the 
fine sense of privilege and ownership. And all this 
has to end, I told myself, all this has to end. 

Neither my uncle nor I had made any provision for 
disaster, all we had was in the game, and I had little 
doubt now of the completeness of our ruin. For the 
first time in my life since he had sent me that 
wonderful telegram of his I had to consider that 
common anxiety of mankind, — Employment. I had 
to come off my magic carpet and walk once more in 
the world. 

And suddenly I found myself at the cross drives 
•where I had seen Beatrice for the first time after so 
many years. It is strange, but so far as I can recollect 
I had not thought of her once since I had landed at 
Plymouth. No doubt she had filled the background of 
my mind, but I do not remember one definite clear 
thought. I had been intent on my uncle and the 
financial collapse. 


It came like a blow in the face now, all that too 
has to end ! 

Suddenly I was filled with the thought of her and a 
great longing for her. What would she do when she 
realized our immense disaster? What would she do? 
How would she take it. It filled me with astonishment 
to realize how little I could tell. . . . 

Should I perhaps presently happen upon her ? 

I went on through the plantations and out upon 
the downs and thence I saw Cothope with a new 
glider of his own design soaring down wind to my old 
familiar "grounding'" place. To judge by its long 
rhythm it was a very good glider. " Like Cothope's 
cheek, 1 ' thought I, "to go on with the research. I 
wonder if he's keeping notes. . . . But all this will 
have to stop." 

He was sincerely glad to see me. " It's been a 
rum go,' 1 he said. 

He had been there without wages for a month, a 
man forgotten in the rush of events. 

" I just stuck on and did what I could with the 
stuff. I got a bit of money of my own — and I said to 
myself, ' well, here you are with the gear and no-one to 
look after you. You won't get such a chance again, 
my boy, not in all your born days. Why not make 
what you can with it ? ' " 

" How's Lord Roberts (8 ?" 

Cothope lifted his eyebrows. " I've had to refrain/' 
he said. " But he's looking very handsome." 

" Gods ! " I said, " I'd like to get him up just once 
before we smash. You read the papers ? You know 
we're going to smash ? " 

" Oh ! I read the papers. It's scandalous, Sir, such 
work as ours should depend on things like that. You 


and I ought to be under the State, Sir, if you'll 
excuse me " 

" Nothing to excuse," I said. " I've always been a 
Socialist — of a sort — in theory. Let's go and have a 
look at him. How is he ? Deflated ? " 

"Just about quarter full. That last oil glaze of 
yours holds the gas something beautiful. He's not lost 
a cubic metre a week. ..." 

Cothope returned to Socialism as we went towards 
the sheds. 

" Glad to think you're a Socialist, Sir," he said, " it's 
the only civilized state. I been a Socialist some years — 
off the Clarion. It's a rotten scramble, this world. It 
takes the things we make and invent and it plays the 
silly fool with 'em. We scientific people, we'll have to 
take things over and stop all this financing and adver- 
tisement and that. It's too silly. It's a noosance. 
Look at us ! " 

Lord Roberts /3 even in his partially deflated con- 
dition in his shed was a fine thing to stare up at. I 
stood side by side with Cothope regarding him, and it 
was borne in upon me more acutely than ever that all 
this had to end. I had a feeling just like the feeling 
of a boy who wants to do wrong, that I would use up 
the stuff' while I had it before the creditors descended. 
I had a queer fancy too, I remember, that if I could 
get into the air it would advertise my return to 
• Beatrice. 

"We'll fill her," I said concisely. 

"It's all ready," said Cothope, and added as an 
afterthought, " unless they cut off the gas. ..." 

I worked and interested myself with Cothope all 
the morning and for a time forgot my other troubles. 
But the thought of Beatrice flooded me slowly and 


steadily. It became an unintelligent sick longing to 
see her. I felt that I could not wait for the filling of 
Lord Roberts j3, that I must hunt her up and see her 
soon. I got everything forward and lunched with 
Cothope, and then with the feeblest excuses left him 
in order to prowl down through the woods towards 
Bedley corner. I became a prey to wretched hesitations 
and diffidence. Ought I to go near her now ? I asked 
myself, reviewing all the social abasements of my early 
years. At last about five I called at the Dower House. 
I was greeted by their Charlotte — with a forbidding 
eye and a cold astonishment. 

Both Beatrice and Lady Osprey were out. 

There came into my head some prowling dream of 
meeting her. I went along the lane towards Woking, 
the lane down which we had walked five months ago in 
the wind and rain. 

I mooned for a time in our former footsteps, then 
swore and turned back across the fields, and then con- 
ceived a distaste for Cothope and went Downward. 
At last I found myself looking down on the huge 
abandoned masses of the Crest Hill house. 

That gave my mind a twist into a new channel. 
My uncle came uppermost again. What a strange 
melancholy emptiness of intention that stricken enter- 
prise seemed in the even evening sunlight, what vulgar 
magnificence and crudity and utter absurdity ! It was 
as idiotic as the pyramids. I sat down on the stile, 
staring; at it as though I had never seen that forest of 
scaffold poles, that waste of walls and bricks and plaster 
and shaped stones, that wilderness of broken soil and 
wheeling tracks and dumps before. It struck me 
suddenly as the compactest image and sample of all 
that passes for Progress, of all the advertisement-inflated 


spending, the aimless building up and pulling down, 
the enterprise and promise of my age. This was our 
fruit, this was what we had done, I and my uncle, in 
the fashion of our time. We were its leaders and 
exponents, we were the thing it most flourishingly 
produced. For this futility in its end, for an epoch 
of such futility, the solemn scroll of history had 
imfolded. . . . 

" Great God ! " I cried, " but is this Life ? " 
For this the armies drilled, for this the Law was 
administered and the prisons did their duty, for this 
the millions toiled and perished in suffering, in order 
that a few of us should build palaces we never finished, 
make billiard-rooms under ponds, run imbecile walls 
round irrational estates, scorch about the world in 
motor-cars, devise flying-machines, play golf and a 
dozen such foolish games of ball, crowd into chattering 
dinner parties, gamble and make our lives one vast 
dismal spectacle of witless waste ! So it struck me 
then, and for a time I could think of no other inter- 
pretation. This was Life ! It came to me like a 
revelation, a revelation at once incredible and indis- 
putable of the abysmal folly of our being. 

I was roused from such thoughts by the sound of 
footsteps behind me. 

I turned half hopeful — so foolish is a lover's imagi- 
nation, and stopped amazed. It was my uncle. His 
face was white — white as I had seen it in my dream. 

" Hullo ! " I said and stared. (s Why aren't vou in 
London ? " 

" It's all up," he said. . . . 


"Adjudicated?" . . . 

"No"! 11 

I stared at him for a moment and then got off the 

He stood swaying and then came forward with a 
weak motion of his arms like a man who cannot see 
distinctly, and caught at and leant upon the stile. 
For a moment we were absolutely still. He made 
a clumsy gesture towards the great futility below and 
choked. I discovered that his face was wet with tears, 
that his wet glasses blinded him. He put up his little 
fat hand and clawed them off clumsily, felt inefficiently 
for his pocket-handkerchief and then to my horror, as 
he clung to me, he began to weep aloud, this little 
old world- worn swindler. It wasn't just sobbing or 
shedding tears, it was crying as a child cries. It was 
— oh ! terrible ! 

" It's cruel," he blubbered at last. " They asked me 
questions. They lep 1 asking me questions, George. . . ." 

He sought for utterance, and spluttered. 

" The Bloody bullies ! * he shouted. " The Bloo-oody 
Bullies; 1 

He ceased to weep. He became suddenly rapid 
and explanatory. 

" It's not a fair game, George. They tire you out. 
And I'm not well. My stomach's all wrong. And I 
been and got a cold. I always been li'ble to cold and 
this one's on my chest. And then they tell you to 
speak up. They bait you — and bait you, and bait you. 
It's torture. The strain of it. You can't remember 
what you said. You're bound to contradict yourself. 
It's like Russia, George. ... It isn't fair play. . . . 
Prominent man. I've been next at dinners with that 
chap, Neal, I've told him stories — and he's bitter ! 


Sets out to ruin me. Don't ask a civil question — 
bellows. 1 ' 

He broke down again. " I been bellowed at, I 
been bullied, I been treated like a dog. Dirty cads 
they are ! Dirty cads ! I'd rather be a Three Card 
Sharper than a barrister ; I'd rather sell cat's-meat in 
the streets. 

"They sprung things on me this morning, things 
I didn't expect. They rushed me ! I'd got it all in 
my hands and then I was jumped. By Neal ! Neal 
I've given city tips to ! Neal ! I've helped 
Neal. . . . 

" I couldn't swallow a mouthful — not in the lunch 
hour. I couldn't face it. It's true, George — I couldn't 
face it. I said I'd get a bit of air and slipped out and 
down to the Embankment, and there I took a boat 
to Richmond. Some idee. I took a rowing boat when 
I got there and rowed about on the river for a bit. 
A lot of chaps and girls there was on the bank laughed 
at my shirt-sleeves and top hat. Dessay they thought 
it was a pleasure trip. Fat lot of pleasure ! I rowed 
round for a bit and came in. Then I came on here. 
"Windsor way. And there they are in London doing 
what they like with me. ... I don't care ! " 

"But " I said, looking down at him perplexed. 

" It's abscondin'. They'll have a warrant." 

" I don't understand," I said. 

" It's all up, George — all up and over. 

"And I thought I'd live in that place, George — 
and die a lord ! It's a great place, reely, an imperial 
place — if anyone has the sense to buy it and finish it. 
That terrace ." 

I stood thinking him over. 

"Look here!" I said. "What's that about a 


warrant ? Are you sure they'll get a warrant ? I'm 
sorry, uncle ; but what have you done ? " 

" Haven't I tole you ? " 

"Yes, but they won't do very much to you for 
that. They'll only bring you up for the rest of your 

He remained silent for a time. At last he spoke — 
speaking with difficulty. 

" It's worse than that. I done something. . . . 
They're bound to get it out. Practically they have got 
it out." 

" What ? " 

" Writin' things down I done something." 

For the first time in his life, I believe, he felt and 
looked ashamed. It rilled me with remorse to see him 
suffer so. 

" We've all done things," I said. " It's part of the 
game the world makes us play. If they want to arrest 

you — and you've got no cards in your hand ! They 

mustn't arrest you." 

"No. That's partly why I went to Richmond. 
But I never thought ." 

His little bloodshot eyes stared at Crest Hill. 

" That chap Wittaker Wright," he said, " he had 
his stuff ready. I haven't. Now you got it, George. 
That's the sort of hole I'm in." 

§ 4 

That memory of my uncle at the gate is very clear 
and full. I am able to recall even the undertow of my 
thoughts while he was speaking. I remember my pity 
and affection for him in his misery growing and stirring 
within me, my realization that at any risk I must help 


him. But then comes indistinctness again. I was 
beginning to act. I know I persuaded him to put 
himself in my hands, and began at once to plan and 
do. I think that when we act most we remember 
least, that just in the measure that the impulse of our 
impressions translates itself into schemes and movements, 
it ceases to record itself in memories. I know I re- 
solved to get him away at once, and to use the Lord 
Roberts ]3 in effecting that. It was clear he was soon 
to be a hunted man, and it seemed to me already unsafe 
for him to try the ordinary Continental routes in his 
flight. I had to evolve some scheme, and evolve it 
rapidly, how we might drop most inconspicuously into 
the world across the water. My resolve to have one 
flight at least in my airship fitted with this like hand 
to glove. It seemed to me we might be able to cross 
over the water in the night, set our airship adrift, and 
turn up as pedestrian tourists in Normandy or Brittany, 
and so get away. That, at any rate, was my ruling 
idea. I sent off Cothope with a dummy note to Woking 
because I did not want to implicate him, and took my 
uncle to the pavilion. I went down to my aunt, and 
made a clean breast of the situation. She became 
admirably competent. We went into his dressing- 
room, and ruthlessly broke his locks. I got a pair of 
brown boots, a tweed suit and cap of his, and indeed 
a plausible walking outfit, and a little game bag for 
his pedestrian gear ; and, in addition, a big motoring 
overcoat and a supply of rugs to add to those I had at 
the pavilion. I also got a flask of brandy, and she 
made sandwiches. I don't remember any servants ap- 
pearing, and I forget where she got those sandwiches. 
Meanwhile we talked. Afterwards I thought with what 
a sure confidence we talked to each other. 


" What's he done ? " she said. 

"D' you mind knowing?" 

" No conscience left, thank God ! "" 

" I think — forgery ! " 

There was just a little pause. "Can you carry this 
bundle ?" she asked. 

I lifted it. 

" No woman ever has respected the law — ever," she 
said. " It's too silly. . . . The things it lets you do ! 
And then pulls you up Like a mad nurse minding 
a child." 

She carried some rugs for me through the shrubbery 
in the darkling. 

"They'll think we're going mooning,"" she said, 
jerking her head at the household. "I wonder what 
they make of us — criminals. . . ." An immense droning 
note came as if in answer to that. It startled us both 
for a moment. " The dears i " she said. " It's the gong 
for dinner ! . . . But I wish I could help little Teddy, 
George. Its awful to think of him there with hot 
eyes, red and dry. And I know — the sight of me 
makes him feel sore. Things I said, George. If I 
could have seen, I'd have let him have an omnibusful 
of Scrymgeours. I cut him up. He'd never thought 
I meant it before. . . . I'll help all I can, anyhow." 

I turned at something in her voice, and got a moon- 
light gleam of tears upon her face. 

" Could she have helped ? " she asked abruptly. 


" That woman." 

" My God ! " I cried, " helped ! Those— things don't 
help! . . ." 

" Tell me again what I ought to do," she said after 
a silence. 


I went over the plans I had made for communicating, 
and the things I thought she might do. I had given 
her the address of a solicitor she might put some 
trust in. 

"But you must act for yourself," I insisted. 
" Roughly," I said, " it's a scramble. You must get 
what you can for us, and follow as you can. ,, 

She nodded. 

She came right up to the pavilion and hovered for 
a time shyly, and then went away. 

I found my uncle in my sitting-room in an arm- 
chair, with his feet upon the fender of the gas stove, 
which he had lit, and now he was feebly drunken with 
my whisky, and very weary in body and spirit, and 
inclined to be cowardly. 

" I lef my drops, 11 he said. 

He changed his clothes slowly and unwillingly. I 
had to bully him, I had almost to shove him to the 
airship and tuck him up upon its wicker flat. Single- 
handed I made but a clumsy start ; we scraped along 
the roof of the shed and bent a van of the propeller, 
and for a time I hung; underneath without his offering 
a hand to help me to clamber up. If it hadn't been 
for a sort of anchoring trolley device of Cothope^, a 
sort of slip anchor running on a rail, we should never 
have got clear at all. 

The incidents of our flight in Lord Roberts /3 do 
not arrange themselves in any consecutive order. To 
think of that adventure is like dipping haphazard into 
an album of views. One is reminded first of this and 
then of that. We were both lying down on a horizontal 


plate of basketwork ; for Lord Roberts /3 bad none of 
the elegant accommodation of a balloon. I lay forward, 
and my uncle behind me in such a position that he 
could see hardly anything of our flight. We were 
protected from rolling over simply by netting between 
the steel stays. It was impossible for us to stand up 
at all ; we had either to lie or crawl on all fours over 
the basketwork. Amidships were lockers made of 
Watson's Aulite material, and between these it was 
that I had put my uncle wrapped in rugs. I wore 
sealskin motoring boots and gloves, and a motoring 
fur coat over my tweeds, and I controlled the engine 
by Bowden wires and levers forward. 

The early part of that night's experience was made 
up of warmth, of moonlit Surrey and Sussex landscape, 
and of a rapid and successful flight, ascending and 
swooping, and then ascending again southward. I 
could not watch the clouds because the airship over- 
hung me ; I could not see the stars nor gauge the 
meteorological happening, but it was fairly clear to 
me that a wind, shifting between north and north-east, 
was gathering strength, and after I had satisfied myself 
by a series of entirely successful expansions and con- 
tractions of the real air-worthiness of Lord Roberts /3, 
I stopped the engine to save my petrol, and let the 
monster drift, checking its progress by the dim land- 
scape below. My uncle lay quite still behind me, saying 
little and staring in front of him, and I was left to my 
own thoughts and sensations. 

My thoughts, whatever they were, have long since 
faded out of memory, and my sensations have merged 
into one continuous memory of a countryside lying, as 
it seemed, under snow, with square patches of dimness, 
white phantoms of roads, rents and pools of velvety 


blackness, and lamp-jewelled houses. I remember a 
train boring its way like a hastening caterpillar of fire 
across the landscape, and how distinctly I heard its 
clatter. Every town and street was buttoned with 
street lamps. I came quite close to the South Downs 
near Lewes, and all the lights were out in the houses, 
and the people gone to bed. We left the land a little 
to the east of Brighton, and by that time Brighton 
was well abed, and the brightly-lit sea-front deserted. 
Then I let out the gas chamber to its fullest extent 
and rose. I like to be high above water. 

I do not clearly know what happened in the night. 
I think I must have dozed, and probably my uncle 
slept. I remember that once or twice I heard him 
talking in an eager, muffled voice to himself, or to an 
imaginary court. But there can be no doubt the wind 
changed right round into the east, and that we were 
carried far down the Channel without any suspicion of 
the immense leeway we were making. I remember the 
kind of stupid perplexity with which I saw the dawn 
breaking over a grey waste of waters below, and realized 
that something was wrong. I was so stupid that it 
was only after the sunrise I really noticed the trend of 
the foam caps below, and perceived we were in a severe 
easterly gale. Even then instead of heading south- 
easterly, I set the engine going, headed south, and so 
continued a course that must needs have either just 
hit Ushant, or carry us over the Bay of Biscay. I 
thought I was east of Cherbourg, when I was far to 
the west, and stopped my engine in that belief, and 
then set it going again. I did actually sight the coast 
of Brittany to the south-east in the late afternoon, and 
that it was woke me up to the gravity of our position. 
I discovered it by accident in the south-east, when I 


was looking for it in the south-west. I turned about 
east and faced the wind for some time, and finding I 
had no chance in its teeth, went high, where it seemed 
less violent, and tried to make a course south-east. It 
was only then that I realized what a gale I was in. I 
had been going westward, and perhaps even in gusts 
north of west, at a pace of fifty or sixty miles an hour. 
Then I began what I suppose would be called a 
Fight against the east wind. One calls it a Fight, but 
it was really almost as unlike a fight as plain sewing. 
The wind tried to drive me westwardly, and I tried to 
get as much as I could eastwardly, with the wind 
beating and rocking us irregularly, but by no means 
unbearably, for about twelve hours. My hope lay in 
the wind abating, and our keeping in the air and east- 
ward of Finisterre until it did, and the chief danger 
was the exhaustion of our petrol. It was a long and 
anxious and almost meditative time ; we were fairly 
warm, and only slowly getting hungry, and except that 
my uncle grumbled a little and produced some philo- 
sophical reflections, and began to fuss about having a 
temperature, we talked very little. I was tired and 
sulky, and chiefly worried about the engine. I had to 
resist a tendency to crawl back and look at it. I did 
not care to risk contracting our gas chamber for fear 
of losing gas. Nothing was less like a fight. I know 
that in popular magazines, and so forth, all such 
occasions as this are depicted in terms of hysteria. 
Captains save their ships, engineers complete their 
bridges, generals conduct their battles, in a state of 
dancing excitement, foaming recondite technicalities at 
the lips. I suppose that sort of thing works up the 
reader, but so far as it professes to represent reality, I 
am convinced it is all childish nonsense. Schoolboys 


of fifteen, girls of eighteen, and literary men all their 
lives, may have these squealing fits, but my own ex- 
perience is that most exciting scenes are not exciting, 
and most of the urgent moments in life are met by 
steady-headed men. 

Neither I nor my uncle spent the night in ejacula- 
tions, nor in humorous allusions, nor any of these 
things. We remained lumpish. My uncle stuck in his 
place and grumbled about his stomach, and occasionally 
rambled off into expositions of his financial position 
and denunciations of Neal — he certainly struck out 
one or two good phrases for Neal— and I crawled about 
at rare intervals in a vague sort of way and grunted, 
and our basketwork creaked continually, and the wind 
on our quarter made a sort of ruffled flapping in the 
wall of the gas chamber. For all our wraps we got 
frightfully cold as the night wore on. 

I must have dozed, and it was still dark when I 
realized with a start that we were nearly due south of, 
and a long way from, a regularly-flashing lighthouse, 
standing out before the glow of some great town, and 
then that the thing that had awakened me was the 
cessation of our engine, and that we were driving back 
to the west. 

Then, indeed, for a time I felt the grim thrill of 
life. I crawled forward to the cords of the release 
valves, made my uncle crawl forward too, and let out 
the gas until we were falling down through the air 
like a clumsy glider towards the vague greyness that 
was land. 

Something must have intervened here that I have 
forgotten. I saw the lights of Bordeaux when it was 
quite dark, a nebulous haze against black; of that I 
am reasonably sure. But certainly our fall took place 


in the cold, uncertain light of early dawn. I am, at 
least, equally sure of that. And Mimizan, near where 
we dropped, is fifty miles from Bordeaux, whose harbour 
lights I must have seen. 

I remember coming down at last with a curious 
indifference, and actually rousing myself to steer. But 
the actual coming to earth was exciting enough. I 
remember our prolonged dragging landfall, and the 
difficulty I had to get clear, and how a gust of wind 
caught Lord Roberts /3 as my uncle stumbled awav 
from the ropes and litter, and dropped me heavily, and 
threw me on to my knees. Then came the realization 
that the monster was almost consciously disentangling 
itself for escape, and then the light leap of its rebound. 
The rope slipped out of reach of my hand. I remember 
running knee-deep in a salt pool in hopeless pursuit of 
the airship as it dragged and rose seaward, and how 
only after it had escaped my uttermost effort to re- 
capture it, did I realize that this was quite the best 
thing that could have happened. It drove swiftly over 
the sandy dunes, lifting and falling, and was hidden by 
a clump of wind-bitten trees. Then it reappeared much 
further off, and still receding. It soared for a time, 
and sank slowly, and after that I saw it no more. I 
suppose it fell into the sea and got wetted with salt 
water and heavy, and so became deflated and sank. 

It was never found, and there was never a report of 
any one seeing it after it escaped from me. 


But if I find it hard to tell the story of our 
long flight through the air overseas, at least that 
dawn in France stands cold and clear and full. I see 

2 G 


again almost as if I saw once more with my bodily 
eyes the ridges of sand rising behind ridges of sand, 
grey and cold and black-browed with an insufficient 
grass. I feel again the clear, cold chill of dawn, and 
hear the distant barking of a dog. I find myself asking 
again, " What shall we do now ? " and trying to scheme 
with a brain tired beyond measure. 

At first my uncle occupied my attention, lie was 
shivering a good deal, and it was all I could do to 
resist my desire to get him into a comfortable bed at 
once. But I wanted to appear plausibly in this part of 
the world. I felt it would not do to turn up anywhere at 
dawn and rest, it would be altogether too conspicuous ; 
we must rest until the day was well advanced, and then 
appear as road-stained pedestrians seeking a meal. I 
gave him most of what was left of the biscuits, emptied' 
our flasks, and advised him to sleep, but at first it was 
too cold, albeit I wrapped the big fur rug around him. 

I was struck now by the flushed weariness of his 
face, and the look of age the grey stubble on his un- 
shaved chin gave him. He sat crumpled up, shivering 
and coughing, munching reluctantly, but drinking 
eagerly, and whimpering a little, a dreadfully pitiful 
figure to me. But we had to go through with it, 
there was no way out for us. 

Presently the sun rose over the pines, and the sand 
grew rapidly warm. My uncle had done eating, and 
sat with his wrists resting on his knees, the most 
hopeless-looking of lost souls. 

" I'm ilV he said, " Fm damnably ill ! I can feel 
it in my skin ! " 

Then — it was horrible to me — he cried, " I ought 
to be in bed ; I ought to be in bed . . . instead of 
flying about," and suddenly he burst into tears. 


I stood up. "Go to sleep, man !" I said, and took 
the rug from him, and spread it out and rolled him 
up in it. 

" It's all very well,*' he protested ; " I'm not young 
enough " 

"Lift up your head," I interrupted, and put his 
knapsack under it. 

"They'll catch us here, just as much as in an inn,"' 1 
he grumbled, and then lay still. 

Presently, after a long time, I perceived he was 
asleep. His breath came with peculiar wheezings, and 
every now and again he would cough. I was very stiff' 
and tired myself, and perhaps I dozed. I don't re- 
member. I remember only sitting, as it seemed nigh 
interminably, beside him, too weary even to think in 
that sandy desolation. 

No one came near us, no creature, not even a dog. 
I roused myself at last, feeling that it was vain to seek 
to seem other than abnormal, and with an effort that 
was like lifting a sky of lead, we made our way through 
the wearisome sand to a farm-house. There I feigned 
even a more insufficient French than I possess naturally, 
and let it appear that we were pedestrians from Biarritz 
who had lost our way along the shore and got benighted. 
This explained us pretty well, I thought, and we got 
most heartening: coffee and a cart to a little roadside 
station. My uncle grew more and more manifestly ill 
with every stage of our journey. I got him to Bayonne, 
where he refused at first to eat, and was afterwards 
very sick, and then took him shivering and collapsed 
up a little branch line to a frontier place called Luzon 

We found one homely inn with two small bedrooms, 
kept by a kindly Basque woman. I got him to bed, 


and that night shared his room, and after an hour or 
so of sleep he woke up in a raging fever and with a 
wandering mind, cursing Neal and repeating long in- 
accurate lists of figures. He was manifestly a case for 
a doctor, and in the morning we got one in. He was 
a young man from Montpelier, just beginning to 
practise, and very mysterious and technical and modern 
and unhelpful. He spoke of cold and exposure, and 
la grippe and pneumonia. He gave many explicit and 
difficult directions. ... I perceived it devolved upon 
me to organize nursing and a sick-room. I installed a 
religieuse in the second bedroom of the inn, and took 
a room for myself in the inn of Port de Luzon, a 
quarter of a mile away. 

§ 1 

And now my story converges on what, in that 
queer corner of refuge out of the world, was destined 
to be my uncle's deathbed. There is a background of 
the Pyrenees, of blue hills and sunlit houses, of the old 
castle of Luzon and a noisy cascading river, and for a 
foreground the dim stuffy room whose windows both 
the religieuse and hostess conspired to shut, with its 
waxed floor, its four-poster bed, its characteristically 
French chairs and fireplace, its champagne bottles and 
dirty basins and used towels and packets of Somatose 
on the table. And in the sickly air of the confined 
space behind the curtains of the bed lay my little uncle, 
with an effect of being enthroned and secluded, or 
sat up, or writhed and tossed in his last dealings with 
life. One went and drew back the edge of the curtains 
if one wanted to speak to him or look at him. 



Usually he was propped up against pillows, because 
so he breathed more easily. He slept hardly at all. 

I have a confused memory of vigils and mornings 
and afternoons spent by that bedside, and how the 
religieuse hovered about me, and how meek and good 
and inefficient she was, and how horribly black were 
her nails. Other figures come and go, and particularly 
the doctor, a young man plumply rococo, in bicycling 
dress, with fine waxen features, a little pointed beard, 
and the long black frizzy hair and huge tie of a minor 
poet. Bright and clear-cut and irrelevant are memories 
of the Basque hostess of my uncle's inn and of the 
family of Spanish people who entertained me and pre- 
pared the most amazingly elaborate meals for me, with 
soup and salad and chicken and remarkable sweets. 
They were all very kind and sympathetic people, 
systematically so. And constantly, without attracting 
attention, I was trying to get newspapers from home. 

My uncle is central to all these impressions. 

I have tried to make you picture him, time after 
time, as the young man of the Wimblehurst chemist's 
shop, as the shabby assistant in Tottenham Court 
Road, as the adventurer of the early days of Tono- 
Bungay, as the confident preposterous plutocrat. And 
now I have to tell of him strangely changed under the 
shadow of oncoming death, with his skin lax and yellow 
and glistening with sweat, his eyes large and glassy, his 
countenance unfamiliar through the growth of a beard, 
his nose pinched and thin. Never had he looked so 
small as now. And he talked to me in a whispering, 
strained voice of great issues, of why his life had been, 
and whither he was going. Poor little man ! that last 
phase is, as it were, disconnected from all the other 
phases. It was as if he crawled out from the ruins of 


his career, and looked about him before he died. For 
he had quite clear-minded states in the intervals of his 

He knew he was almost certainly dying. In a way 
that took the burthen of his cares off' his mind. There 
was no more Neal to face, no more flights or evasions, 
no punishments. 

" It has been a great career, George," he said, " but 
I shall be glad to rest. Glad to rest ! . . . Glad to 

His mind ran rather upon his career, and usually, 
I am glad to recall, with a note of satisfaction and 
approval. In his delirious phases he would most often 
exaggerate this self-satisfaction, and talk of his 
splendours. He would pluck at the sheet and stare 
before him, and whisper half-audible fragments of 

"What is this great place, these cloud-capped 
towers, these airy pinnacles ? . . . Ilion. Sky-y-point- 
ing. . . . Ilion House, the residence of one of our 
great merchant princes. . . . Terrace above terrace. 
Reaching to the Heavens. . . . Kingdoms Caesar never 
knew. ... A great poet, George. Zzzz. Kingdoms 
Caesar never knew. . . . Under entirely new manage- 

" Greatness. . . . Millions. . . . Universities. . . . 
He stands on the terrace — on the upper terrace — 
directing — directing — by the globe — directing — the 
trade. . . ." 

It was hard at times to tell when his sane talk 
ceased and his delirium began. The secret springs of 
his life, the vain imaginations, were revealed. I some- 
times think that all the life of man sprawls abed, 
careless and unkempt, until it must needs clothe and 


wash itself and come forth seemly in act and speech 
for the encounter with one's fellow-men. I suspect that 
all things unspoken in our souls partake somewhat of 
the laxity of delirium and dementia. Certainly from 
those slimy tormented lips above the bristling grey 
beard came nothing but dreams and disconnected 
fancies. . . . 

Sometimes he raved about Neal, threatened Neal. 
" What has he got invested ? " he said. " Does he 
think he can escape me ? ... If I followed him up. . . . 
Ruin. Ruin. . . . One would think / had taken his 

And sometimes he reverted to our airship flight. 
" It's too long, George, too long and too cold. Vm 
too old a man — too old — for this sort of thing. . . . 
You know you're not saving — you're killing me." 

Towards the end it became evident our identity 
was discovered. I found the press, and especially 
Boom's section of it, had made a sort of hue and cry 
for us, sent special commissioners to hunt for us, and 
though none of these emissaries reached us until my 
uncle was dead, one felt the forewash of that storm of 
energy. The thing got into the popular French press. 
People became curious in their manner towards us, and 
a number of fresh faces appeared about the weak little 
struggle that went on in the closeness behind the 
curtains of the bed. The young doctor insisted on 
consultations, and a motor-car came up from Biarritz, 
and suddenly odd people with questioning eyes began 
to poke in with inquiries and help. Though nothing 
was said, I could feel that we were no longer regarded 
as simple middle-class tourists; about me, as I went, 
I perceived almost as though it trailed visibly, the 
prestige of Finance and a criminal notoriety. Local 


personages of a plump and prosperous quality appeared 
in the inn making inquiries, the Luzon priest became 
helpful, people watched our window, and stared at me 
as I went to and fro ; and then we had a raid from a 
little English clergyman and his amiable, capable wife 
in severely Anglican blacks, who swooped down upon 
us like virtuous but resolute vultures from the adjacent 
village of Saint Jean de Pollack. 

The clergyman was one of those odd types that 
oscillate between remote country towns in England 
and the conduct of English Church services on mutual 
terms in enterprising hotels abroad, a tremulous, 
obstinate little being with sporadic hairs upon his face, 
spectacles, a red button nose, and aged black raiment. 
He was evidently enormously impressed by my uncle's 
monetary greatness, and by his own inkling of our 
identity, and he shone and brimmed over with tact and 
fussy helpfulness. He was eager to share the watching 
of the bedside with me, he proffered services with both 
hands, and as I was now getting into touch with affairs 
in London again, and trying to disentangle the gigantic 
details of the smash from the papers I had succeeded 
in getting from Biarritz, I accepted his offers pretty 
generously, and began the studies in modern finance 
that lay before me. I had got so out of touch with 
the old traditions of religion, that I overlooked the 
manifest possibility of his attacking my poor sinking 
vestiges of an uncle with theological solicitudes. My 
attention was called to that, however, very speedily 
by a polite but urgent quarrel between himself and the 
Basque landlady as to the necessity of her hanging a 
cheap crucifix in the shadow over the bed, where it 
might catch my uncle's eye, where, indeed, I found it 
had caught his eye. 


" Good Lord ! " I cried ; u is that still going on ! " 

That night the little clergyman watched, and in 
the small hours he raised a false alarm that my uncle 
was dying, and made an extraordinary fuss. He raised 
the house. I shall never forget that scene, I think, 
which began with a tapping at my bedroom door just 
after I had fallen asleep, and his voice — 

" If you want to see your uncle before he goes, you 
must come now. 11 

The stuffy little room was crowded when I reached 
it, and lit by three flickering candles. I felt I was 
back in the eighteenth century. There lay my poor 
uncle amidst indescribably tumbled bedclothes, weary 
of life beyond measure, weary and rambling, and the 
little clergyman trying to hold his hand and his atten- 
tion, and repeating over and over again — 

"Mr. Ponderevo, Mr. Ponderevo, it is all right. It 
is all right. Only Believe ! ' Believe on Me, and ye 
shall be saved 1 ! 11 

Close at hand was the doctor with one of those 
cruel and idiotic injection needles modern science puts 
in the hands of these half-educated young men, keeping 
my uncle flickeringly alive for no reason whatever. 
The religieuse hovered sleepily in the background with 
an overdue and neglected dose. In addition, the land- 
lady had not only got up herself, but roused an aged 
crone of a mother and a partially imbecile husband, 
and there was also a fattish, stolid man in grey alpaca, 
with an air of importance — who he was and how he 
got there, I don't know. I rather fancy the doctor 
explained him to me in French I did not understand. 
And they were all there, wearily nocturnal, hastily and 
carelessly dressed, intent upon the life that flickered 
and sank, making a public and curious show of its 


going, queer shapes of human beings lit by three 
uncertain candles, and every soul of them keenly and 
avidly resolved to be in at the death. The doctor 
stood, the others were all sitting on chairs the land- 
lady had brought in and arranged for them. 

And my uncle spoilt the climax, and did not 

I replaced the little clergyman on the chair by the 
bedside, and he hovered about the room. 

"I think,*" he whispered to me mysteriously, as 
he gave place to me, " I believe — it is well with 

I heard him trying to render the stock phrases 
of Low Church piety into French for the benefit of the 
stolid man in grey alpaca. Then he knocked a glass 
off the table, and scrabbled for the fragments. From 
the first I doubted the theory of an immediate death. 
I consulted the doctor in urgent whispers. I turned 
round to get champagne, and nearly fell over the 
clergyman's legs. He was on his knees at the additional 
chair the Basque landlady had got on my arrival, and 
he was praying aloud, " Oh, Heavenly Father, have 
mercy on this thy Child. ..." I hustled him up and 
out of the way, and in another minute he was down at 
another chair praying again, and barring the path of 
the reUgieuse who had found me the corkscrew. Some- 
thing put into my head that tremendous blasphemy 
of Carlyle's about " the last mew of a drowning kitten. 11 
He found a third chair vacant presently ; it was as if 
he was playing a game. 

" Good Heavens, 11 said I, " we must clear these 
people out, 11 and with a certain urgency I did. 

I had a temporary lapse of memory, and forgot all 
my French. I drove them out mainly by gesture, and 


opened the window to the universal horror. I intimated 
the death scene was postponed, and, as a matter of 
fact, my uncle did not die until the next night. 

I did not let the little clergyman come near him 
again, and I was watchful for any sign that his mind 
had been troubled. But he made none. He talked 
once about " that parson chap." 

" Didn't bother you ? " I asked. 

" Wanted something, 11 he said. 

I kept silence, listening keenly to his mutterings. 
I understood him to say, "they wanted too much.* 1 
His face puckered like a child's going to cry. "You 
can't get a safe six per cent., 11 he said. I had for a 
moment a wild suspicion that those urgent talks had 
not been altogether spiritual, but that, I think, was a 
quite unworthy and unjust suspicion. The little clergy- 
man was as simple and honest as the day. My uncle 
was simply generalizing about his class. 

But it may have been these talks that set loose some 
long dormant string of ideas in my uncle's brain, ideas 
the things of this world had long suppressed and hidden 
altogether. Near the end he suddenlv became clear- 
minded and lucid, albeit very weak, and his voice was 
little, but clear. 

" George, 11 he said. 

" I'm here, 11 I said, " close beside you. 11 

"George. You have always been responsible for 
the science. George. You know better than I do. 
Is . Is it proved ? " 

" What proved ? " 

"Either way? 11 

" I don't understand." 

"Death ends all. After so much . Such 

splendid beginnings. Somewhere. Something." 


I stared at him amazed. His sunken eves were very 

" What do you expect ? " I said in wonder. 

He would not answer. " Aspirations," 1,1 he whispered. 

He fell into a broken monologue, regardless of me. 
" Trailing clouds of glory," he said, and " first-rate 
poet, first-rate. . . . George was always hard. Always.' 7 

For a lonsr time there was silence. 

Then he made a gesture that he wished to speak. 

" Seems to me, George " 

I bent my head down, and he tried to lift his hand 
to my shoulder. I raised him a little on his pillows, 
and listened. 

"It seems to me, George, always — there must be 
something in me — that won't die. 11 

He looked at me as though the decision rested 
with me. 

"I think, 11 he said ; " something. 11 

Then, for a moment, his mind wandered. "Just 
a little link, 11 he whispered almost pleadingly, and lay 
quite still, but presently he was uneasy again. 

" Some other world "" 

" Perhaps, 11 I said. " Who knows ? " 

" Some other world. 11 

" Not the same scope for enterprise, 11 I said. 
" No." 

He became silent. I sat leaning down to him, and 
following out my own thoughts, and presently the 
relig'icuse resumed her periodic conflict with the window 
fastening. For a time he struggled for breath. . . . 
It seemed such nonsense that he should have to suffer 
so — poor silly little man ! 

"George, 11 he whispered, and his weak little hand 
came out. "Perhaps " 


He said no more, but I perceived from the ex- 
pression of his eyes that he thought the question had 
been put. 

" Yes, I think so," I said stoutly. 

" Aren't you sure ? " 

" Oh — practically sure,'' 1 said I, and I think he tried 
to squeeze my hand. And there I sat, holding his 
hand tight, and trying to think what seeds of im- 
mortality could be found in all his being, what sort 
of ghost there was in him to wander out into the bleak 
immensities. Queer fancies came to me. . . . He lay 
still for a long time, save for a brief struggle or so for 
breath, and ever and again I wiped his mouth and lips. 

I fell into a pit of thought. I did not remark at 
first the change that was creeping over his face. He 
lay back on his pillow, made a faint zzzing sound that 
ceased, and presently and quite quietly he died — greatly 
comforted by my assurance. I do not know when he 
died. His hand relaxed insensibly. Suddenly, with a 
start, with a shock, I found that his mouth had fallen 
open, and that he was dead. . . . 


It was dark night when I left his deathbed and 
went back to my own inn down the straggling street 
of Luzon. 

That return to my inn sticks in my memory also 
as a thing apart, as an experience apart. Within was 
a subdued bustle of women, a flitting of lights, and the 
doing of petty offices to that queer exhausted thing 
that had once been my active and urgent little uncle. 
For me those offices were irksome and impertinent. I 
slammed the door, and went out into the warm, foggv 


drizzle of the village street lit by blurred specks of 
light in great voids of darkness, and never a soul 
abroad. That warm veil of fog produced an effect of 
vast seclusion. The very houses by the roadside peered 
through it as if from another world. The stillness of 
the night was marked by an occasional remote baying 
of dogs ; all these people kept dogs because of the near 
neighbourhood of the frontier. 

Death ! 

It was one of those rare seasons of relief, when for 
a little time one walks a little outside of and beside 
life. I felt as I sometimes feel after the end of a play. 
I saw the whole business of my uncle's life as something 
familiar and completed. It was done, like a play one 
leaves, like a book one closes. I thought of the push 
and the promotions, the noise of London, the crowded, 
various company of people through which our lives had 
gone, the public meetings, the excitements, the dinners 
and disputations, and suddenly it appeared to me that 
none of these things existed. It came to me like a 
discovery that none of these things existed. Before 
and after I have thought and called life a phantas- 
magoria, but never have I felt its truth as I did that 
night. . . . We had parted ; we two who had kept com- 
pany so long had parted. But there was, I knew, no end 
to him or me. He had died a dream death, and ended 
a dream, his pain dream was over. It seemed to me 
almost as though I had died too. What did it matter, 
since it was unreality, all of it, the pain and desire, the 
beginning and the end ? There was no reality except 
this solitary road, this quite solitary road, along which 
one went rather puzzled, rather tired. . . . 

Part of the fog became a big mastiff that came 
towards me and stopped and slunk round me growling* 


barked gruffly and shortly and presently became fog 


My mind swayed back to the ancient beliefs and 
fears of our race. My doubts and disbeliefs slipped 
from me like a loosely fitting garment. I wondered 
quite simply what dogs bayed about the path of that 
other walker in the darkness, what shapes, what lights, 
it might be, loomed about him as he went his way from 
our last encounter on earth — along the paths that are 
real, and the way that endures for ever? 


Last belated figure in that grouping round my 
uncle's death-bed is my aunt. When it was beyond all 
hope that my uncle could live I threw aside whatever 
concealment remained to us and telegraphed directly 
to her. But she came too late to see him living. She 
saw him calm and still, strangely unlike his habitual 
garrulous animation, an unfamiliar inflexibility. 

w It isn't like him," she whispered, awed by this 
alien dignity. 

I remember her chiefly as she talked and wept upon 
the bridge below the old castle. We had got rid of 
some amateurish reporters from Biarritz, and had walked 
together in the hot morning sunshine down through 
Port Luzon. There, for a time, we stood leaning on the 
parapet of the bridge and surveying the distant peaks, 
the rich blue masses of the Pyrenees. For a long time 
we said nothing, and then she began talking. 

" Life's a rum Go, George ! " she began. " Who 
would have thought, when I used to darn your stockings 
at old Wimblehurst, that this would be the end of the 
story? It seems far away now — that little shop, his 


and my first home. The glow of the bottles, the big 
coloured bottles ! Do you remember how the light 
shone on the mahogany drawers ? The little gilt 
letters! 01 Amj'ig, and STnap! I can remember it 
all — bright and shining — like a Dutch picture. Real ! 
And yesterday. And here we are in a dream. You 
a man — and me an old woman, George. And poor 
little Teddy, who used to rush about and talk — making 
that noise he did — Oh ! " 

She choked, and the tears flowed unrestrained. She 
wept, and I was glad to see her weeping. . . . 

She stood leaning over the bridge ; her tear-wet 
handkerchief gripped in her clenched hand. 

"Just an hour in the old shop again — and him 
talking. Before things got done. Before they got 
hold of him. And fooled him. 

" Men oughtn't to be so tempted with business and 
things. . . . 

"They didn't hurt him, George? 11 she asked 

For a moment I was puzzled. 

" Here, I mean, 11 she said. 

"No, 11 I lied stoutly, suppressing the memory of 
that foolish injection needle I had caught the young 
doctor using. 

" I wonder, George, if they'll let him talk in 
Heaven? . . ." 

She faced me. " Oh ! George, dear, my heart aches, 
and I don't know what I say and do. Give me your 
arm to lean on — it's good to have you, dear, and lean 
upon you. . . . Yes, I know you care for me. That's 
why I'm talking. We've always loved one another, and 
never said anything about it, and you understand, and 
I understand. But my heart's torn to pieces by this, 


torn to rags, and things drop out I've kept in it. It's 
true he wasn't a husband much for me at the last. But 
he was my child, Geor-ge, he was my child and all my 
children, my silly child, and life has knocked him about 
for me, and I've never had a say in the matter ; never 
a say ; it's puffed him up and smashed him — like an old 
bag — under my ej'es. I was clever enough to see it, 
and not clever enough to prevent it, and all I could do 
was to jeer. Fve had to make what I could of it. Like 
most people. Like most of us. . . . But it wasn't fair, 
George. It wasn't fair. Life and Death — great serious 
things — why couldn't they leave him alone, and his lies 

and ways ? If we could see the lightness of it . 

" Why couldn't they leave him alone ? " she repeated 
in a whisper as we went towards the inn. 

2 H 


Love among the Wreckage 


When I came back I found that my share in the escape 
and death of my uncle had made me for a time a 
notorious and even popular character. For two weeks 
I was kept in London " facing the music, 1 '' as he would 
have said, and making things easy for my aunt, and I 
still marvel at the consideration with which the world 
treated me. For now it was open and manifest that I 
and my uncle were no more than specimens of a modern 
species of brigand, wasting the savings of the public 
out of the sheer wantonness of enterprise. I think 
that, in a way, his death produced a reaction in my 
favour, and my flight, of which some particulars now 
appeared, stuck in the popular imagination. It seemed 
a more daring and difficult feat than it was, and I 
couldn't very well write to the papers to sustain my 
private estimate. There can be little doubt that men 
infinitely prefer the appearance of dash and enterprise 
to simple honesty. No one believed I was not an arch 
plotter in his financing. Yet they favoured me. I even 
got permission from the trustee to occupy my chalet 
for a fortnight while I cleared up the mass of papers, 
calculations, notes of work, drawings and the like, that 



I left in disorder when I started on that impulsive raid 
upon the Mordet quap heaps. I was there alone. I 
got work for Cothope with the Ilchesters, for whom 
I now build these destroyers. They wanted him at 
once, and he was short of money, so I let him go 
and managed very philosophically by myself. 

But I found it hard to fix my attention on aeron- 
autics. I had been away from the work for a full half- 
vear and more, a half-year crowded with intense discon- 
certing things. For a time mv brain refused these fine 
problems of balance and adjustment altogether; it 
wanted to think about my uncle's dropping jaw, my 
aunt's reluctant tears, about dead negroes and pesti- 
lential swamps, about the evident realities of cruelty 
and pain, about life and death. Moreover, it was 
weary with the frightful pile of figures and documents 
at the Hardingham, a task to which this raid to Lady 
Grove was simply an interlude. And there was 

On the second morning, as I sat out upon the 
verandah recalling memories and striving in vain to 
attend to some too succinct pencil notes of Cothope's, 
Beatrice rode up suddenly from behind the pavilion, 
and pulled rein and became still ; Beatrice a little flushed 
from riding and sitting on a big black horse. 

I did not instantly rise. I stared at her. " You ! " 
I said. 

She looked at me steadily. " Me," she said. 

I did not trouble about any civilities. I stood up 
and asked point blank a question that came into my 

" Whose horse is that ? ,1 I said. 

She looked me in the eyes. " CarnabyV she 



" How did you get here— this way ? " 

"The wall's down." 
; JDown ? Already ? " 
: A great bit of it between the plantations." 

" And you rode through, and got here by chance ? " 

"I saw you yesterday. And I rode over to see 

I had now come close to her, and stood looking up 
into her face. 

" Fin a mere vestige," I said. 

She made no answer, but remained regarding me 
steadfastly with a curious air of proprietorship. 

"You know I'm the living survivor now of the 
great smash. Ira rolling and dropping down through 
all the scaffolding of the social system. . . . It's all a 
chance whether I roll out free at the bottom, or go 
down a crack into the darkness out of sight for a year 
or two." 

" The sun," she remarked irrelevantly, " has burnt 
you. . . , I'm getting down." 

She swung herself down into my arms, and stood 
beside me face to face. 

" Where's Cothope ? " she asked. 

" Gone." 

Her eyes flitted to the pavilion and back to me. 
We stood close together, extraordinarily intimate, and 
extraordinarily apart. 

"IVe never seen this cottage of yours," she said, 
" and I want to." 

She flung the bridle of her horse round the verandah 
post, and I helped her tie it. 

"Did you get what you went for to Africa?" she 

" No," I said, " I lost my ship." 


" And that lost everything ? " 

" Everything." 

She walked before me into the living-room of the 
chalet, and I saw that she gripped her riding-whip very 
tightly in her hand. She looked about her for a moment, 
and then at me. 

" It's comfortable, 11 she remarked. 

Our eyes met in a conversation very different from 
the one upon our lips. A sombre glow surrounded 
us, drew us together ; an unwonted shyness kept us 
apart. She roused herself, after an instant's pause, to 
examine my furniture. 

"You have chintz curtains. I thought men were 

too feckless to have curtains without a woman . 

But, of course, your aunt did that ! And a couch and 
a brass fender, and — is that a pianola ? That is your 
desk. I thought men's desks were always untidy, and 
covered with dust and tobacco ash. 11 

She flitted to my colour prints and my little case 
of books. Then she went to the pianola. I watched 
her intently. 

" Does this thing play ? " she said. 

" What ? " I asked. 

" Does this thing play ? " 

I roused myself from my preoccupation. 

"Like a musical gorilla with fingers all of one 
length. And a sort of soul. . . . It's all the world 
of music to me. 11 

" What do you play ? " 

"Beethoven, when I want to clear up my head 
while I'm working. He is — how one would always like 
to work. Sometimes Chopin and those others, but 
Beethoven. Beethoven mainly. Yes. 11 

Silence again between us. She spoke with an effort. 


"Play me something. 11 She turned from me and 
explored the rack of music rolls, became interested 
and took a piece, the first part of the Kreutzer Sonata, 
hesitated. " No, 11 she said, " that ! " 

She gave me Brahm's Second Concerto, Op. 58, and 
curled up on the sofa watching me as I set myself 
slowly to play. . . . 

" I say, 11 she said when I had done, " that's fine. I 
didnt know those things could play like that. Tin all 
astir. . . . 11 

She came and stood over me, looking at me. " I'm 
going to have a concert, 11 she said abruptly, and laughed 
uneasily and hovered at the pigeon-holes. "Now — 
now what shall I have ? " She chose more of Brahms. 
Then we came to the Kreutzer Sonata. It is queer 
how Tolstoy has loaded that with suggestions, de- 
bauched it, made it a scandalous and intimate symbol. 
When I had played the first part of that, she came up 
to the pianola and hesitated over me. I sat stiffly — 

Suddenly she seized my downcast head and kissed 
my hair. She caught at my face between her hands 
and kissed my lips. I put my arms about her and we 
kissed together. I sprang to my feet and clasped her. 

" Beatrice, 11 I said. " Beatrice ! " 

" My dear, 1 ' she whispered, nearly breathless, with 
her arms about me. " Oh ! my dear ! " 



Love, like everything else in this immense process 
of social disorganization in which we live, is a thing 
adrift, a fruitless thing broken away from its con- 
nexions. I tell of this love affair here because of its 


irrelevance, because it is so remarkable that it should 
mean nothing, and be nothing except itself. It glows 
in my memory like some bright casual flower starting 
up amidst the debris of a catastrophe. For nearly a 
fortnight we two met and made love together. Once 
more this mighty passion, that our aimless civilization 
has fettered and maimed and sterilized and debased, 
gripped me and filled me with passionate delights and 
solemn joys — that were all, you know, futile and pur- 
poseless. Once more I had the persuasion "This 
matters. Nothing else matters so much as this." We 
were both infinitely grave in such happiness as we had. 
I do not remember any laughter at all between us. 

Twelve days it lasted from that encounter in my 
chalet until our parting. 

Except at the end, they were days of supreme summer, 
and there was a waxing moon. We met recklessly day 
by day. We were so intent upon each other at first, 
so intent upon expressing ourselves to each other, and 
getting at each other, that we troubled very little about 
the appearance of our relationship. We met almost 
openly. . . . We talked of ten thousand things, and of 
ourselves. We loved. We made love. There is no 
prose of mine that can tell of hours transfigured. The 
facts are nothing. Everything we touched, the meanest 
things, became glorious. How can I render bare tender- 
ness and delight and mutual possession ? 

I sit here at my desk thinking of untellable things. 

I have come to know so much of love that I know 
now what love might be. We loved, scarred and 
stained ; we parted — basely and inevitably, but at least 
I met love. 

I remember as we sat in a Canadian canoe, in a 
reedy, bush-masked shallow we had discovered opening 


out of that pine-shaded Woking canal, how she fell 
talking of the things that happened to her before she 
met me again. . . . 

She told me things, and they so joined and welded 
together other things that lay disconnected in my 
memory, that it seemed to me I had always known 
what she told me. And yet indeed I had not known 
nor suspected it, save perhaps for a luminous, transitory 
suspicion ever and again. 

She made me see how life had shaped her. She 
told me of her girlhood after I had known her. " We 
were poor and pretending and managing. We hacked 
about on visits and things. I ought to have married. 
The chances I had weren't particularly good chances. 
I didn't like 'em. 11 

She paused. " Then Carnaby came along." 

I remained quite still. She spoke now with down- 
cast eyes, and one finger just touching the water. 

" One gets bored, bored beyond redemption. One 
goes about to these huge expensive houses. I suppose 
— the scale's immense. One makes one's self useful to 
the other women, and agreeable to the men. One has 
to dress. . . . One has food and exercise and leisure. 
It's the leisure, and the space, and the blank opportunity 
it seems a sin not to fill. Carnaby isn't like the other 
men. He's bigger. . . . They go about making love. 
Everybody's making love. I did. . . . And I don't do 
things by halves." 

She stopped. 

" You knew ? " she asked, looking up, quite steadily. 

I nodded. 

" Since when ? " 

"Those last days. ... It hasn't seemed to matter 
really. I was a little surprised n 


She looked at me quietly. "Cothope knew," she 
said. " By instinct. I could feel it." 

"I suppose," I began, "once, this would have 
mattered immensely. Now " 

"Nothing matters," she said, completing me. "I 
felt I had to tell you. I wanted you to understand 
why I didn't marry you — with both hands. I have 
loved you" — she paused — "have loved you ever since 
the day I kissed you in the bracken. Only — I forgot." 

And suddenly she dropped her face upon her hands, 
and sobbed passionately — 

" I forgot — I forgot," she cried, and became still. . . . 

I dabbed my paddle in the water. " Look here ! " 
I said; "forget again! Here am I — a ruined man. 
Marry me." 

She shook her head without looking up. 

We were still for a long time. " Marry me," I 

She looked up, twined back a whisp of hair, and 
answered dispassionately — 

" I wish I could. Anjhow, we have had this time. 
It has been a fine time — has it been — for you also ? 
I haven't grudged you all I had to give. It's a poor 
gift — except for what it means and might have been. 
But we are near the end of it now." 

" Why ? " I asked. " Marry me ! Why should we 
two " 

" You think," she said, " I could take courage and 
come to you and be your everyday wife — while you 
work and are poor ? " 

" Why not ? " said I. 

She looked at me gravely, with extended finger. 
"Do you really think that? — of me? Haven't you 
seen me — all ? " 


I hesitated. 

"Never once have I really meant marrying you,"' she 
insisted. " Never once. I fell in love with you from 
the first. But when you seemed a successful man, I 
told myself I wouldn't. I was love-sick for you, and 
you were so stupid, I came near it then. But I knew 
I wasn't good enough. What could I have been to 
you ? A woman with bad habits and bad associations, 
a woman smirched. And what could I do for you or 
be to you ? If I wasn't good enough to be a rich man's 
wife, I'm certainly not good enough to be a poor one's.: 
Forgive me for talking sense to you now, but I wanted 
to tell you this somewhen " 

She stopped at my gesture. I sat up, and the canoe 
rocked with my movement. 

" I don't care," I said. " I want to marry you and 
make you my wife ! w 

"No," she said, "don't spoil things. That is 
impossible ! " 

" Impossible ! " 

" Think ! I can't do my own hair ! Do you mean 
you will get me a maid ? " 

" Good God ! " I cried, disconcerted beyond measure, 
"won't you learn to do your own hair for me? Do 
you mean to say you can love a man " 

She flung out her hands at me. " Don't spoil it," 
she cried. " I have given you all I have, I have given 
you all I can. If I could do it, if I was good enough 
to do it, I would. But I am a woman spoilt and 
ruined, dear, and you are a ruined man. When we 
are making love we are lovers — but think of the gulf 
between us in habits and ways of thought, in will and 
training, when we are not making love. Think of it 
— and don't think of it ! Don't think of it yet. We 


have snatched some hours. We still may have some 
hours ! " 

She suddenly knelt forward toward me, with a 
glowing darkness in her eyes. "Who cares if it up- 
sets?" she cried. " If you say another word I will kiss 
you. And go to the bottom clutching you. I'm not 
afraid of that. Fm not a bit afraid of that. Ill die 
with you. Choose a death, and 111 die with you — 
readily. Do listen to me ! I love you. I shall always 
love you. It's because I love you that I won't go down 
to become a dirty familiar thing with you amidst the 
grime. I've given all I can. I've had all I can. . . . 
Tell me," and she crept nearer, " have I been like the 
dusk to you, like the warm dusk ? Is there magic still ? 
Listen to the ripple of water from your paddle. Look 
at the warm evening light in the sky. Who cares if 
the canoe upsets ? Come nearer to me. Oh, my love ! 
come near ! So." 

She drew me to her and our lips met. 


I asked her to marry me once again. 

It was our last morning together, and we had met 
very early, about sunrise, knowing that we were to 
part. No sun shone that day. The sky was overcast, 
the morning chilly and lit by a clear, cold spiritless 
light. A heavy dampness in the air verged close on 
rain. When I think of that morning, it has always 
the quality of graying ashes wet with rain. 

Beatrice too had changed. The spring had gone 
out of her movement ; it came to me, for the first time, 
that some day she might grow old. She had become 


one flesh with the rest of common humanity; the soft- 
ness had gone from her voice and manner, the dusky 
magic of her presence had gone. I saw these things 
with perfect clearness, and they made me sorry for them 
and for her. But they altered my love not a whit, 
abated it nothing. And when we had talked awkwardly 
for half a dozen sentences, I came dully to my point. 

" And now,' 1 I cried, " will you marry me ? " 

" No," she said, " I shall keep to my life here." 

I asked her to marry me in a year's time. She shook 
her head. 

" This world is a soft world,"" I said, " in spite of 
my present disasters. I know now how to do things. 
If I had you to work for — in a year I could be a 
prosperous man " 

"No," she said, "I will put it brutally, I shall go 
back to Carnaby." 

" But ! " I did not feel angry. I had no sort 

of jealousy, no wounded pride, no sense of injury. I 
had only a sense of grey desolation, of hopeless cross- 

"Look here," she said. "I have been awake all 
night and every night. I have been thinking of this — 
every moment when we have not been together. I'm 
not answering you on an impulse. I love you. I love 
you. I'll say that over ten thousand times. But here 
we are " 

" The rest of life together," I said. 

" It wouldn't be together. Now we are together. 
Now we have been together. We are full of memories. 
I do not feel I can ever forget a single one." 

"Nor I." 

"And I want to close it and leave it at that. You 
see, dear, what else is there to do ? " 


She turned her white face to me. " All I know of 
love, all I have ever dreamt or learnt of love I have 
packed into these days for you. You think we might 
live together and go on loving. No ! For you I will 
have no vain repetitions. You have had the best and 
all of me. Would you have us, after this, meet again 
in London or Paris or somewhere, scuffle to some 
wretched dressmaker's, meet in a cabinet particuUer ? " 

" No," I said. " I want you to marry me. I want 
you to play the game of life with me as an honest 
woman should. Come and live with me. Be my wife 
and squaw. Bear me children. 1 " 

I looked at her white, drawn face, and it seemed 
to me I might carry her yet. I spluttered for 

"My God! Beatrice! 11 I cried; "but this is 
cowardice and folly ! Are you afraid of life ? You of 
all people ! What does it matter what has been or 
what we were ? Here we are with the world before us ! 
Start clean and new with me. Well fight it through ! 
Tm not such a simple lover that 111 not tell you plainly 
when you go wrong, and fight our difference out with 
you. Ifs the one thing I want, the one thing I need 
— to have you, and more of you and more ! This love- 
making — it"s love-making. Ifs just a part of us, an 
incident 11 

She shook her head and stopped me abruptly. 
" It"s all," 1 she said. 

" All ! " I protested. 

" I'm wiser than you. Wiser beyond words. 11 She 
turned her eyes to me and they shone with tears. 

"I wouldn't have you say anything — but what 
you're saying, 11 she said. " But it's nonsense, dear. 
You know it's nonsense as you say it." 


I tried to keep up the heroic note, but she would 
not listen to it. 

" It's no good," she cried almost petulantly. " This 
little world has made — made us what we are. Don't 
you see — don't you see what I am ? I can make love. 
I can make love and be loved, prettily. Dear, don't 
blame me ! I have given you all I have. If I had 

anything more . I have gone through it all over 

and over again — thought it out. This morning my 
head aches, my eyes ache. The light has gone out 
of me and I am a sick and tired woman. But I'm 
talking wisdom — bitter wisdom. I couldn't be any 
sort of helper to you, any sort of wife, any sort 
of mother. I'm spoilt. I'm spoilt by this rich idle 
way of living, until every habit is wrong, every taste 
wrong. The world is wrong. People can be ruined 
by wealth just as much as by poverty. Do you think 
I wouldn't face life with you if I could, if I wasn't 
absolutely certain I should be down and dragging in 
the first half-mile of the journey ? Here I am— 
damned ! Damned ! But I won't damn you. You 
know what I am ! You know. You are too clear and 
simple not to know the truth. You try to romance 
and hector, but you know the truth. I am a little 

cad — sold and done. I'm . My dear, you think 

I've been misbehaving, but all these days I've been on 
my best behaviour. . . . You don't understand, because 
you're a man. A woman, when she's spoilt, is spoilt. 
She's dirty in grain. She's done." 

She walked on weeping. 

" You're a fool to want me," she said. " You're a 
fool to want me — for my sake just as much as yours. 
We've done all we can. It's just romancing " 

She dashed the tears from her eyes and turned 


upon me. " Don't you understand ? " she challenged. 
"Don't you know?" 

We faced one another in silence for a moment. 

" Yes," I said, " I know." 

For a long time Ave spoke never a word, but walked 
on together, slowly and sorrowfully, reluctant to turn 
about towards our parting. When at last we did, she 
broke silence again. 

" Fve had you," she said. 

" Heaven and hell," I said, " can't alter that." 

" I've wanted " she went on. " I've talked to 

you in the nights and made up speeches. Now when 
I want to make them Fm tongue-tied. But to me it's 
just as if the moments we have had lasted for ever. 
Moods and states come and go. To-day my light is 
out. ..." 

To this day I cannot determine whether she said or 
whether I imagined she said " chloral." Perhaps a 
half-conscious diagnosis flashed it on my brain. Per- 
haps I am the victim of some perverse imaginative 
freak of memory, some hinted possibility that scratched 
and seared. There the word stands in my memory, as 
if it were written in fire. 

We came to the door of Lady Osprey's garden at 
last, and it was beginning to drizzle. 

She held out her hands and I took them. 

" Yours," she said, in a weary unimpassioned voice ; 
" all that I had — such as it was. Will you forget ? " 

" Never," I answered. 

" Never a touch or a word of it ? " 

" No." 

" You will," she said. 

We looked at one another in silence, and her face 
was full of fatigue and misery. 


What could I do ? What was there to do ? 

" I wish " I said, and stopped. 

" Good-bye." 

§ 4 

That should have been the last I saw of her, but, 
indeed, I was destined to see her once again. Two days 
after I was at Lady Grove, I forget altogether upon 
Avhat errand, and as I walked back to the station 
believing her to be gone away she came upon me, and 
she was riding with Carnaby, just as I had seen them 
first. The encounter jumped upon us unprepared. 
She rode by, her eyes dark in her white face, and 
scarcely noticed me. She winced and grew stiff at the 
sight of me and bowed her head. But Carnaby, because 
he thought I was a broken and discomfited man, saluted 
me with an easy friendliness, and shouted some genial 
commonplace to me. 

They passed out of sight and left me by the road- 
side. . . . 

And then indeed I tasted the ultimate bitterness of 
life. For the first time I felt utter futility, and was wrung 
by emotion that begot no action, by shame and pity 
beyond words. I had parted from her dully and I had 
seen my uncle break and die with dry eyes and a steady 
mind, but this chance sight of my lost Beatrice brought 
me to tears. My face was wrung, and tears came pour- 
ing down my cheeks. All the magic she had for me 
had changed to wild sorrow. " Oh God ! " I cried, 
"this is too much," and turned my face after her and 
made appealing gestures to the beech trees and cursed 
at fate. I wanted to do preposterous things, to pursue 
her, to save her, to turn life back so that she might 


begin again. I wonder what would have happened 
had I overtaken them in pursuit, breathless with run- 
ning, uttering incoherent words, weeping, expostula- 
tory ? I came near to doing that. 

There was nothing in earth or heaven to respect 
my curses or weeping. In the midst of it a man who 
had been trimming the opposite hedge appeared and 
stared at me. 

Abruptly, ridiculously, I dissembled before him and 
went on and caught my train. . . . 

But the pain I felt then I have felt a hundred 
times ; it is with me as I write. It haunts this book, 
I see, that is what haunts this book, from end to 
end. . . . 

2 1 


Night and the Open Sea 


I have tried throughout all this story to tell things as 
they happened to me. In the beginning — the sheets 
are still here on the table, grimy and dogs-eared and 
old-looking — I said I wanted to tell myself and the 
world in which I found myself, and I have done my 
best. But whether I have succeeded I cannot imagine. 
All this writing is gray now and dead and trite and 
unmeaning to me ; some of it I know by heart. I am 
the last person to judge it. 

As I turn over the big pile of manuscript before 
me, certain things become clearer to me, and particularly 
the immense inconsequence of my experiences. It is, I 
see now that I have it all before me, a story of activity 
and urgency and sterility. I have called it Tono- 
Bungay, but I had far better have called it Waste. 
I have told of childless Marion, of my childless aunt, 
of Beatrice wasted and wasteful and futile. What 
hope is there for a people whose women become fruit- 
less ? I think of all the energy I have given to vain 
things. I think of my industrious scheming with my 
uncle, of Crest Hill's vast cessation, of his resonant 
strenuous career. Ten thousand men have envied him 



and wished to live as he lived. It is all one spectacle 
of forces running to waste, of people who use and do 
not replace, the story of a country hectic with a wast- 
ing aimless fever of trade and money-making and 
pleasure-seeking. And now I build destroyers ! 

Other people may see this country in other terms ; 
this is how I have seen it. In some early chapter in 
this heap I compared all our present colour and abun- 
dance to October foliage before the frosts nip down the 
leaves. That I still feel was a good image. Perhaps 
I see wrongly. It may be I see decay all about me 
because I am, in a sense, decay. To others it may be 
a scene of achievement and construction radiant with 
hope. I too have a sort of hope, but it is a remote 
hope, a hope that finds no promise in this Empire or 
in any of the great things of our time. How they 
will look in history I do not know, how time and 
chance will prove them I cannot guess ; that is how they 
have mirrored themselves on one contemporary mind. 

Concurrently with writing the last chapter of this 
book I have been much engaged by the affairs of a new 
destroyer we have completed. It has been an oddly 
complementary alternation of occupations. Three 
weeks or so ago this novel had to be put aside in order 
that I might give all my time day and night to the 
fitting and finishing of the engines. Last Thursday 
X 2, for so we call her, was done, and I took her down 
the Thames and went out nearly to Texel for a dial 
of speed. 

It is curious how at times one's impressions will all 
fuse and run together into a sort of unity and become 


continuous with things that have hitherto been utterly 
alien and remote. That rush down the river became 
mysteriously connected with this book. As I passed 
down the Thames I seemed in a new and parallel 
manner to be passing all England in review. I saw it 
then as I had wanted my readers to see it. The 
thought came to me slowly as I picked my way through 
the Pool ; it stood out clear as I went dreaming into 
the night out upon the wide North Sea. . . . 

It wasn't so much thinking at the time as a sort of 
photographic thought that came and grew clear. X 2 
went ripping through the dirty oily water as scissors 
rip through canvas, and the front of my mind was all 
intent with getting her through under the bridges 
and in and out among the steam -boats and barges and 
rowing-boats and piers. I lived with my hands and 
eyes hard ahead. I thought nothing then of any appear- 
ances but obstacles, but for all that the back of my 
mind took the photographic memory of it complete 
and vivid. . . . 

" This, 11 it came to me, " is England. This is what 
I wanted to give in my book. This ! w 

We started in the late afternoon. We throbbed 
out of our yard above Hammersmith Bridge, fussed 
about for a moment, and headed down stream. We 
came at an easy rush down Craven Reach, past Fulham 
and Hurlingham, past the long stretches of muddy 
meadow and muddy suburb to Battersea and Chelsea, 
round the cape of tidy frontage that is Grosvenor Road 
and under Yauxhall Bridge, and Westminster opened 
before us. We cleared a string of coal barges, and 
there on the left in the October sunshine stood the 
Parliament houses and the flag was flying and Parlia- 
ment was sitting. . . . 


I saw it at the time unseeingly ; afterwards it came 
into my mind as the centre of the whole broad pano- 
ramic effect of that afternoon. The stiff square lace 
of Victorian Gothic with its Dutch clock of a tower 
came upon me suddenly and stared and whirled 
past in a slow half pirouette and became still, 
I know, behind me as if watching me recede. 
" Aren't you going to respect me, then ? " it seemed 
to say. 

Not I ! There in that great pile of Victorian 
architecture the landlords and the lawyers, the bishops, 
the railway men and the magnates of commerce go to 
and fro — in their incurable tradition of commercialized 
Bladesovery, of meretricious gentry and nobility sold for 
riches. I have been near enough to know. The Irish 
and the Labour-men run about among their feet, 
making a fuss, effecting little ; they've got no better 
plans that I can see. Respect it indeed ! There's a 
certain paraphernalia of dignity, but whom does it 
deceive ? The King comes down in a gilt coach to open 
the show and wears long robes and a crown ; and there's 
a display of stout and slender legs in white stockings 
and stout and slender legs in black stockings and artful 
old gentlemen in ermine. I was reminded of one 
congested afternoon I had spent with my aunt amidst a 
cluster of agitated women's hats in the Royal Gallery 
of the House of Lords and how I saw the King going 
to open Parliament, and the Duke of Devonshire 
looking like a gorgeous pedlar and terribly bored 
with the cap of maintenance on a tray before him 
hung by slings from his shoulders. A wonderful 
spectacle ! . . . 

It is quaint no doubt, this England— it is even 
dignified in places — and full of mellow associations. 


That does not alter the quality of the realities these 
robes conceal. The realities are greedy trade, base 
profit-seeking, bold advertisement — and kingship and 
chivalry, spite of this wearing of treasured robes, 
are as dead among it all as that crusader my uncle 
championed against the nettles outside the Duffield 
church. . . . 

I have thought much of that bright afternoon's 

To run down the Thames so is to run one's hand 
over the pages in the book of England from end to end. 
One begins in Craven Reach and it is as if one were in 
the heart of old England. Behind us are Kew and 
Hampton Court with their memories of Kings and 
Cardinals, and one runs at first between Fulham's 
episcopal garden parties and Hurlingham's playground 
for the sporting instinct of our race. The whole effect 
is English. There is space, there are old trees and 
all the best qualities of the home-land in that upper 
reach. Putney too, looks Anglican on a dwindling 
scale. And then for a stretch the newer developments 
slop over, one misses Bladesover and there come first 
squalid stretches of mean homes right and left and then 
the dingy industrialism of the south side, and on the 
north bank the polite long front of nice houses, artistic, 
literary, administrative people's residences, that stretches 
from Cheyne Walk nearly to Westminster and hides a 
wilderness of slums. What a long slow crescendo that 
is, mile after mile, with the houses crowding closelier, 
the multiplying succession of church towers, the archi- 
tectural moments, the successive bridges, until you 
come out into the second movement of the piece with 
Lambeth's old palace under your quarter and the houses 
of Parliament on your bow ! Westminster Bridge is 


ahead of you then and through it you flash, and in a 
moment the round-faced clock tower cranes up to peer 
at you again and New Scotland Yard squares at you, 
a fat beef-eater of a policeman disguised miraculously 
as a Bastille. 

For a stretch you have the essential London ; you 
have Charing Cross railway station, heart of the world, 
and the Embankment on the north side with its new 
hotels overshadowing its Georgian and Victorian archi- 
tecture, and mud and great warehouses and factories, 
chimneys, shot towers, advertisements on the south. 
The northward skyline grows more intricate and 
pleasing, and more and more does one thank God for 
Wren. Somerset House is as picturesque as the civil 
war, one is reminded again of the original England, one 
feels in the fretted sky the quality of Restoration lace. 

And then comes Aster's strong box and the lawyers 1 
Inns. . . . 

(I had a passing memory of myself there, how once 
I had trudged along the Embankment westward, 
weighing my uncle's offer of three hundred pounds a 
year. . . .) 

Through that central essential London reach I drove, 
and X 2 bored her nose under the foam regardless of it 
all like a black hound going through reeds — on what 
trail even I who made her cannot tell. 

And in this reach too, one first meets the seagulls 
and is reminded of the sea. Blackfriars one takes — 
just under these two bridges and just between them is 
the finest bridge moment in the world — and behold, 
soaring up, hanging in the sky over a rude tumult of 
warehouses, over a jostling competition of traders, 
irrelevantly beautiful and altogether remote, Saint 
Paul's ! " Of course ! " one says, « Saint Paul's ! " It 


is the very figure of whatever fineness the old Angli- 
can culture achieved, detached, a more dignified and 
chastened Saint Peter's, colder, grayer but still ornate ; 
it has never been overthrown, never disavowed, only the 
tall warehouses and all the roar of traffic have forgotten 
it, every one has forgotten it ; the steamships, the 
barges, go heedlessly by regardless of it, intricacies of 
telephone wires and poles cut blackly into its thin 
mysteries and presently, when in a moment the traffic 
permits you and you look round for it, it has dis- 
solved like a cloud into the gray blues of the London 

And then the traditional and ostensible England 
falls from you altogether. The third movement begins, 
the last great movement in the London symphony, in 
which the trim scheme of the old order is altogether 
dwarfed and swallowed up. Comes London Bridge, and 
the great warehouses tower up about you waving 
stupendous cranes, the gulls circle and scream in your 
ears, large ships lie among their lighters, and one is in 
the port of the world. Again and again in this book 
I have written of England as a feudal scheme overtaken 
by fatty degeneration and stupendous accidents of 
hypertrophy. For the last time I must strike that note 
as the memory of the dear neat little sunlit ancient 
Tower of London lying away in a gap among the 
warehouses comes back to me, that little accumula- 
tion of buildings so provincially pleasant and dignified, 
overshadowed by the vulgarest, most typical exploit of 
modern England, the sham Gothic casings to the iron- 
work of the Tower Bridge. That Tower Bridge is the 
very balance and confirmation of Westminster's dull 
pinnacles and tower. That sham Gothic bridge ; in 
the very gates of our mother of change, the Sea ! 


But after that one is in a world of accident and 
nature. For the third part of the panorama of London 
is beyond all law, order, and precedence, it is the sea- 
port and the sea. One goes down the widening reaches 
through a monstrous variety of shipping, great steamers, 
great sailing-ships, trailing the flags of all the world, a 
monstrous confusion of lighters, witches 1 conferences of 
brown-sailed barges, wallowing tugs, a tumultuous 
crowding and jostling of cranes and spars, and wharves 
and stores, and assertive inscriptions. Huge vistas of 
dock open right and left of one, and here and there 
beyond and amidst it all are church towers, little patches 
of indescribably old-fashioned and worn-out houses, 
riverside pubs and the like, vestiges of townships that 
were long since torn to fragments and submerged in 
these new growths. And amidst it all no plan appears, 
no intention, no comprehensive desire. That is the 
very key of it all. Each day one feels that the pressure 
of commerce and traffic grew, grew insensibly monstrous, 
and first this man made a wharf and that erected a 
crane, and then this company set to work and then that, 
and so they jostled together to make this unassimilable 
enormity of traffic. Through it we dodged and drove, 
eager for the high seas. 

I remember how I laughed aloud at the glimpse of 
the name of a London County Council steamboat that 
ran across me. Caxton it was called, and another was 
Pepys and another was Shakespeare. They seemed so 
wildly out of place, splashing about in that confusion. 
One wanted to take them out and wipe them and put 
them back in some English gentleman's library. Every- 
thing was alive about them, flashing, splashing, and 
passing, ships moving, tugs panting, hawsers taut, 
barges going down with men toiling at the sweeps, the 


water all a-swirl with the wash of shipping sealing 
into millions of little wavelets, curling and frothing 
under the whip of the unceasing wind. Past it all we 
drove. And at Greenwich to the south, you know, 
there stands a fine stone frontage where all the victories 
are recorded in a Painted Hall, and beside it is the 
"Ship" where once upon a time those gentlemen of 
Westminster used to have an annual dinner — before 
the port of London got too much for them altogether. 
The old facade of the Hospital was just warming to 
the sunset as we went by, and after that, right and 
left, the river opened, the sense of the sea increased 
and prevailed reach after reach from Northfleet to 
the Nore. 

And out you come at last with the sun behind you 
into the eastern sea. You speed up and tear the oily 
water louder and faster, sirroo, sirroo — swish — sirroo, 
and the hills of Kent — over which I once fled from the 
Christian teachings of Nicodemus Frapp — fall away on 
the right hand and Essex on the left. They fall away 
and vanish into blue haze and the tall slow ships 
behind the tugs, scarce moving ships and wallowing 
sturdy tugs, are all wrought of wet gold as one goes 
frothing by. They stand out bound on strange missions 
of life and death, to the killing of men in unfamiliar 
lands. And now behind us is blue mystery and the 
phantom flash of unseen lights, and presently even 
these are gone, and I and my destroyer tear out to the 
unknown across a great gray space. We tear into the 
great spaces of the future and the turbines fall to 
talking in unfamiliar tongues. Out to the open we 
go, to windy freedom and trackless ways. Light after 
light goes down. England and the Kingdom, Britain 
and the Empire, the old prides and the old devotions, 


glide abeam, astern, sink down upon the horizon, 
pass — pass. The river passes — London passes, England 
passes. . . . 

§ 3 

This is the note I have tried to emphasize, the note 
that sounds clear in my mind when I think of anything 
beyond the purely personal aspects of my story. 

It is a note of crumbling and confusion, of change 
and seemingly aimless swelling, of a bubbling up and 
medley of futile loves and sorrows. But through the 
confusion sounds another note. Through the confusion 
something drives, something that is at once human 
achievement and the most inhuman of all existing 
things. Something comes out of it. . . . How can I 
express the values of a thing at once so essential and 
so immaterial ? It is something that calls upon such 
men as I with an irresistible appeal. 

I have figured it in my last section by the symbol of 
my destroyer, stark and swift, irrelevant to most human 
interests. Sometimes I call this reality Science, some- 
times I call it Truth. But it is something we draw 
by pain and effort out of the heart of life, that we 
disentangle and make clear. Other men serve it, I 
know, in art, in literature, in social invention, and see 
it in a thousand different figures, under a hundred 
names. I see it always as austerity, as beauty. This 
thing we make clear is the heart of life. It is the one 
enduring thing. Men and nations, epochs and civiliza- 
tions pass, each making its contribution. I do not 
know what it is, this something, except that it is 
supreme. It is a something, a quality, an element, 


one may find now in colours, now in forms, now in 
sounds, now in thoughts. It emerges from life with 
each year one lives and feels, and generation by genera- 
tion and age by age, but the how and why of it are all 
beyond the compass of my mind. . . . 

Yet the full sense of it was with me all that night 
as I drove, lonely above the rush and murmur of my 
engines, out upon the weltering circle of the sea. . . . 

Far out to the north-east there came the flicker of 
a squadron of warships waving white swords of light 
about the sky. I kept them hull-down, and presently 
they were mere summer lightning over the watery edge 
of the globe. ... I fell into thought that was nearly 
formless, into doubts and dreams that have no words, 
and it seemed good to me to drive ahead and on and 
on through the windy starlight, over the long black 

§ 4 

It was morning and day before I returned with the 
four sick and starving journalists who had got per- 
mission to come with me, up the shining river, and 
past the old gray Tower. . . . 

I recall the back views of those journalists very 
distinctly, going with a certain damp weariness of 
movement, along a side street away from the river. They 
were good men and bore me no malice, and they served 
me up to the public in turgid degenerate Kiplingese, 
as a modest button on the complacent stomach of the 
Empire. Though as a matter of fact, X 2 isn't intended 
for the empire, or indeed for the hands of any European 
power. We offered it to our own people first, but they 


would have nothing to do with me, and I have long- 
since ceased to trouble much about such questions. I 
have come to see myself from the outside, my country 
from the outside —without illusions. We make and 

We are all things that make and pass, striving upon 
a hidden mission, out to the open sea. 



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